Echoes from Progressive Governors Forum parley in Jos

ISAAC SHOBAYO writes on the fallouts of the recent meeting of governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC), under the banner of Progressive Governors Forum in Jos, Plateau State.

The Progressives Governors Forum, the umbrella body of governors elected on the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) met recently in Jos, Plateau State, to compare notes and exchange ideas on issues, especially to strengthen public service delivery in APC-controlled states and the nation at large.

Eight governors namely, the host, Simon Lalong of Plateau State, the chairman of the forum, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu; Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State; Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki; Governor Abdullahi Bello and Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, were in attendance.

Those who could not attend were represented by their deputies, while the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnibe Mamora; and others made lead presentations that highlighted  the Federal Government’s policies on National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), transportation and security challenges facing the country, among others.

Chairman of the forum, governor of Kebbi State Alhaji Bagudu, succinctly captured the objective of the meeting, when he declared, in his opening address, that the aim of the meeting was to synergise and explore what the governors could do together and to share with one another areas they could collaborate with one another, particularly with “the Federal Government that has partnered with them all the way.”

The meeting paid special attention to salient areas which reflect some of the most challenging issues confronting the states and the nation at large. The key areas the parley focused on were internal security and humanitarian services, health and education.

It also delved into economic issues, such as the raging controversies surrounding the closure of Nigeria borders, especially its present economic advantage to the country and the expected gains in the long run.

In his opening remark, the host governor, Lalong, who is also the chairman of Northern Governors Forum (NGF), tasked the meeting to come up with practical and effective ways on how it could tackle insecurity, such as insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, farmers-herders clashes, ethno-religious crises and other violent conflicts. The forum charged members to generate ideas on how best to work with the Federal Government and, indeed, the local government system, to ensure the protection of lives and properties.

“We, need to come up with practical and effective ways on how we can tackle insecurity manifesting in insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, farmers-herders clashes, ethno-religious crises and other violent conflicts. We must, at this meeting, resolve how best to work with the Federal Government and, indeed, the local government system to ensure the protection of lives and properties of our citizens,” he said.

The national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Ishiomohole, commended Governor Lalong for the prevailing peace in the state and prompt payment of salaries of civil servants, saying with these actions, the sobriquet of the governor should be made to includes ‘Governor Peace Alert.’

He said “during the tenure of your predecessor, he earned more revenue and allocations from the Federation Account. Yet, salaries were not paid. When you came in, revenue dropped drastically, but by sheer will, determination and reordering of your priorities, you chose that salaries must be paid and you have been paying. Also, you have opened up the state and restored peace. These are commendable.”

Comrade Ishiomohole, who also spoke on the new minimum wage, pleaded with the all elected governors on the ticket of the party to brainstorm and work out the modalities of paying the new minimum wage.

“I plead with you to give this a consideration so that when others are struggling and fighting to pay, we would say we have started paying,” he said.

He called the progressive governors and the entire citizens of the country to support the closure of the Nigerian boarders by the Federal Government, adding that the advantage of the closure presently were more than its disadvantages.

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“We should all support the closure. Over the years, we have been claiming that Africa is the centre of our foreign policy. But when Nigeria is standing, we don’t get that automatic support. We should begin to make Nigeria first and centre of our foreign policy. It has to be Nigeria first before we support other nations.

“I want us to support the closure of the boarders. We are not repentant about it at all. We want actions that would make us to consume what we are producing in the country. This is good for us as a nation. I don’t think we have to be apologetic about it,” he said.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, promised that the Federal Government would do everything within its powers to sustain the current economic recovery efforts and reinforce its macroeconomic policies to achieve sustainable economic stability and growth.

He pointed out that the administration would continue ensure that the economic growth came along with more jobs and a fair and just distribution of the national wealth.

On anticorruption, President Buhari called on the state governments to double their support for the Federal Government, adding that the gain of the collaboration would continue to face the danger of annihilation, if corruption persisted at sub-national levels.

“Going forward, we must all work towards building a socially-cohesive society in which the resources of the council work for all. We will continue to apply public funds in such a way that no section of the council or segment of the population will suffer social exclusion,” he said.

The president disclosed that the government remained determined to subdue insecurity and secure the country more than ever before, adding that protection of lives and properties remained a primary responsibility of government and also incumbent on the citizens to share in the responsibility.

During the interactive session which lasted for about three hours, the discussants explored the matters at stake and recognised the need to continue to build synergy and strengthen policy coordination and implementation across different tiers of government led by the APC. The parley recognised the support of the Federal Government and President Buhari, in particular, to state governments, irrespective of political parties, toward addressing some of the challenging resource need, enabling the state governments to stabilise their finances and implement needed social services.

At the end of the parley, the deliberation resolved that there is need for extensive improvement in public service delivery in prioritised sectors namely, education, health, transport, security and social investment consistent with the attainment of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Also, policy harmony between the federal, state and local government to create a positive multiplier effect on the living condition of citizens needs to be looked into.

It equally resolved that there was need to develop a standard template for institutional strengthening for engagement between the different tiers of government, as well as be proactive, responsive and fiscally responsible in addressing the increasing social development needs of citizens.

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