Governors seek additional grant to cushion effects of COVID-19 pandemic

• applaud Nigeria's status as Wild Polio-Virus-Free nation

The 36 state governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) unanimously resolved to engage the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning to take on the new State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) additional financing as grants to states as part of efforts geared towards cushioning the fiscal pressure that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic.

The resolution was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of the 11th teleconference meeting chaired by Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State.

Chairman of the NGF State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Sub-Committee interfacing with the World Bank, Governor Godwin Obaseki also briefed the Forum on the ongoing efforts to facilitate the provision of additional financing for states to support governments’ response to the COVID-19 crisis.

In the bid to improve on the health system, the governors proposed that the Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies engage with the National Assembly Health Committee and State Commissioners of Health to harmonise a workable strategy that will facilitate the speedy release of the BHCPF to fund primary health care activities at the subnational level.

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“The Honourable Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, who presented a newly developed 3-year Health Sector COVID-19 Response Action Plan which is aimed at repositioning the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic over a medium-term outlook.

“The Minister also assured state governments of the availability of about a million Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health care workers in the various facilities throughout the country.

“The Honourable Minister of Health, supported by the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Professor Mohammed Sambo and the Executive Director/CEO of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib also provided clarifications on observations raised by the states on the new guidelines on the implementation of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund and the need to fast track its release in the light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, when increased health response is required and when State governments are experiencing financial strains that threaten their ability to meet counterpart obligations,” the communiqué read.

Governor Fayemi also briefed his counterparts on the suspended nationwide strike declared by the Nigeria Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) which commenced on Monday, 15th June 2020 over unpaid salaries, improved hazard allowances, the unavailability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline workers and those of their colleagues working in high-risk areas, non-domestication and non-implementation of Medical Residency Training Act.

“The President of the National Association of Resident Doctors, Dr Sokomba Aliyu also made a presentation conveying the concerns of resident doctors including, among others, the non-implementation of residency training in most states of the federation, non-payment of salaries and the use of inappropriate salary structures in some States.

“Dr Sokomba Aliyu also told Governors about a particular state where a 25% salary cut across the board also affected resident doctors most of whom continued to work, arguing that there was no basis for slashing the salaries of his members who instead of staying at home are encountering even added challenges at work,” the communiqué read in part.

To this end, the Governors reviewed the concerns of the resident doctors and interface with the Federal and State Ministries of health to address the concerns of resident doctors in the country, by settling backlog of salaries where such exist, reintegrating residency training in State Hospitals where they have been suspended, providing protective equipment and ensuring sustainable pathways to uphold the welfare of doctors in an effective and efficient manner,” the communiqué read.

At the meeting, Governor Fayemi congratulated all the State governments for their contribution to the delisting of Nigeria from the global polio map as Nigeria on June 18, 2020, attained the status of being Wild Polio-Virus-Free.

“The Forum commended the commitment of all stakeholders, including the Federal Ministry of Health, the Dangote Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their strong domestic and global financing support which was instrumental to strengthening the country’s capacity for surveillance and routine immunization. The achievement is a great milestone for the public health history of the country.”

The Forum also deliberated on the need for the harmonisation of Right of Way (RoW) charges across States and bilateral discussions with the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami, geared towards promoting investments in broadband infrastructure in the country.

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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