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Nigerian Governors Forum disowns governor over ill-fated comment on COVID-19 vaccine

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The Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) has distanced itself from a statement credited to a state governor on COVID-19 vaccine, saying the NGF will continue to be informed and guided by science.

“We will ensure that every decision we take retains public and professional trust and is not compromised by conflicts of interest.

“On the ill-fated pronouncement made by a member of the Forum regarding the Covid-19 vaccine in a national daily, the Forum totally and categorically dissociated itself from the statement,” the governors said in a communique made available to Persecondnews at the end of their 24th teleconference meeting.

The body has, therefore, set up a team of experts to advise it on the procurement and administration of the COVID-19 vaccines.

At the meeting, three medical experts briefed the governors on the country’s preparedness for the procurement and administration of COVID vaccines and the level of collaboration required from all stakeholders, including the federal, state governments and the private sector.

They include Professor Oyewale Tomori, leading Virologist and former Vice-Chancellor of Redeemer’s University, Nigeria; Dr. Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA); Dr. Pamela Ajayi Founder/Managing Director Synlab Nigeria (formerly PathCare), President Healthcare Federation of Nigeria and Dr. Egbe Dawodu, Founding Partner of the Anadach Group.

The governors agreed that a team of experts led by Professor Oyewale Tomori will advise state governors on the procurement and administration of coronavirus vaccines.

The NGF Chairman and Ekiti Gov. Kayode Fayemi, briefed his colleagues at the meeting attended by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Chairman of the Board of Gavi, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, on the rollout of the COVAX facility which is a global risk-sharing mechanism co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

It is to facilitate pooled procurement and the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across developing countries. Nigeria is among 12 countries in Africa that have indicated readiness of the 92 qualified countries for the facility and will by end of February 2021 receive its first shipment of vaccines.

The statement said:”The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has indicated that vaccines will be administered in four (4) phases, based on vaccine type and availability, initially for frontline health workers, then the aged (55yrs and above), persons with underlying medical conditions and other target groups.

“The Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, who is the Chairman of the NGF Sub- Committee interfacing with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 reported with concern the rising positivity rate amongst those tested for the virus.”

He urged governors to do more to reactivate their health systems, open-up treatment centres and increase partnerships with stakeholder groups in order to improve risk communication and the public’s adherence to COVID-19 guidelines.

Other highlights of the meeting was the presentation from the Minister of Water Resources, Engineer Suleiman Hussein Adamu and the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, on the Sustainable Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (SUWASH) results-based financing programme for states.

Presentation by Dr. Sarah Alade, Special Adviser to the President on Finance and Economy, on the development of the Nigeria Agenda 2050 and the Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) which will succeed Vision 20:2020 and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017 – 2020. State Governors committed to supporting the development of the national plan by providing technical inputs that will ensure that the plan is inclusive, comprehensive, and reflective of the component development plans of each State in the country.

Another presentation from Dimensions Information Technology LLC on a proposed harmonized Traffic Management System for States which is aimed at boosting their internal revenue generation. The plan was assigned to a Committee, peopled by the Governors of Lagos, Niger, Jigawa and Edo State for review and appropriate advice to the Forum.

The NGF states: The programme has become necessary given the state of the sector which has contributed to 73% of Nigeria’s total burden of enteric infections and over 255,000 preventable deaths in the country each year.

“State governors consequently committed to increasing budgetary allocation to the sector with the collaboration of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and the World Bank through the US$640 million investment finance and US$60 million technical assistance component which together will support and incentivize infrastructure investments and strengthen government policies and institutions in the WASH sector.”

Persecondnews reports that Edo Governor Godwin Obaseki updated the meeting on the Eligibility Criteria for the 2020 States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Annual Performance Assessment (APA) which requires in part that all State governments prepare their FY2021 budgets in line with the National Chart of Accounts (minimum of administrative, economic and function classifications).

They should also ensure that the budgets are approved by the State Houses of Assembly, assented by Governors, and published online by 31st January 2021, the governor said.

Obaseki noted that all states had already met the second part of the Eligibility Criteria by publishing an IPSAS-compliant 2019 Audited Financial Statement online by August last year.

States should to take advantage of the Technical Assistance being provided by the NGF Secretariat on the domestication of the National Chart of Accounts, he urged.

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