COVID-19: Governors at NEC kick against imposition of health hazard allowance on states

•Excess Crude account now $72.4m

Governors have kicked against the imposition of health workers hazard allowance on their states as being contemplated by the Federal Ministry of Health as part of the national response to COVID-19.

Rising from a virtual meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday at the presidential villa, Abuja, they recommended that the allowance should only be presented with general guidance to enable individual states to negotiate with its workers.

This was contained in the briefing provided to NEC by Delta state Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, who heads the council’s interim committee set up to interface with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to ease the lockdown.

According to a statement issued by Laolu Akande, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity Office of the Vice President, after the meeting, Okowa noted that the major recommendation arising from the meeting was the proposed health workers allowance being planned by the Federal Ministry of Health.

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“The ‘Hazard’ allowance should not be imposed on states but presented with general guidance to enable each state to negotiate with its health workers based on its ability to pay,” the statement quoted Okowa as saying.

According to the statement, Okowa said: “the committee recommended that the Honorable Minister of Health should ensure the continuous provision of all essential health services in order to ensure that people do not die from other diseases needlessly.”

The statement said that according to the report presented by the governor to the council, “the Presidential Task Force (PTF) should provide the operating guidelines to the States to enable them to domesticate same given their peculiarities, norms and traditions, especially in the opening of markets, religious places and schools etc.

He added that the Committee’s interim report presented to NEC today recommends “that there should be rapid testing, tracing, isolation and treatment, and the NCDC and PTF should provide each State with laboratory testing facilities and ensure effective sample collection.”

The statement revealed that some state governors may soon join in the membership of the Economic Sustainability Committee as the implementation of the Sustainability Plan proceeds.

It said the hint was dropped by Osinbajo while presiding over a virtual meeting of the NEC.

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The statement disclosed that the governors had made a presentation at the NEC on how the states can collaborate effectively with the Federal Government on the implementation of the recently approved N2.3 trillion stimulus programme.

The statement added: “The Governors welcomed the plan and committed to working with the Federal Government. According to the Vice President, possibly two State Governors could join the Committee for the implementation phase of the plan. He said such would be helpful and bring synergy.

“Besides, state governments will also be actively involved in the process of executing projects in the plan, especially such projects based in the domains of respective States, in collaboration with other stakeholders and partners.”

It recalled that while receiving the report of the Economic Sustainability Committee, President Muhammadu Buhari had described it as a National Plan which has gone through wide consultations.

“The endorsement of the Governors at today’s NEC follows the President’s description of the Sustainability Plan,” the statement noted.

Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting, Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who is also the Chairman of the NGF ad-hoc committee on the collaborative implementation of the NESP, commended the Osinbajo-led ESC for a job well-done and noted that State governors were committed to the successful implementation of the plan.

Specifically, el-Rufai said: “In agriculture, each state is to make available 20 hectares of land for cultivation and with the contribution of lands from States, he added that governors will appreciate land clearance as an incentive.

“In Mass housing, NEC welcomes the plan to build 300,000 housing units across the country with an average of ten thousand homes per State,” el-Rufai noted while also calling for a nationwide mortgage system to support the plan.”

Other highlights of the meeting include the presentation of the 2021 to 2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) by the Federal Ministry of Finance, State Budget and National Planning.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed also reported to council that the balance of Excess Crude Account (ECA) Balance as at 7th July 2020 to be $72,406,952.48;

Stabilization Account Balance as at 7th July 2020, N40, 310,991,995.15 and Natural Resources Development Fund Account Balance as at 7th July 2020, N131, 598,414,041.89.

The statement informed that there were other presentations at the NEC meeting including on Polio and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting was attended by several governors, ministers and heads of MDAs including the CBN Governor and the Group Managing Director of the NNPC.

 

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