Northern Governors Meet Over COVID-19; Push For Testing Centres And Coordinated Response To The Pandemic

Plateau State Governor, Simon Bako Lalong

The Northern States Governor’s Forum, on Monday, 13th April, 2020, met to discuss issues relating to Covid-19 Pandemic and how it affects the region, with a view to sharing experience and coming up with a coordinated response.

The meeting, which was conducted via teleconference and Chaired by the Forum’s Chairman, Governor Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State, discussed various issues including experience sharing on measures adopted by individual States to deal with the disease.

After receiving reports from various States, the Forum resolved to strengthen preventive measures against the pandemic through enhanced border controls and surveillance as well as greater collaboration to ensure that there is synergy among them in movement restriction.

They noted that so far, the lockdown in some States in the region has had varying levels of success, but also raised concerns that enforcing cross-border movements remains a challenge as some of the cases recorded in some States were imported from outside despite the closure of borders by States.

They agreed that at the moment, each State would adopt the measure suitable to its setting, because total lockdown of the region would come at a high cost, considering, most of its citizens are farmers who need to go to farm especially as the rains have started.

Another issue discussed by the Northern Governors was the issue of palliatives from the Federal Government, where they regretted that so far, no State in the region had received a dime as special allocation despite the fact that some of them had recorded cases, while others were making frantic efforts to prevent any outbreak, as well as, prepare against any eventuality.

This they stated, had eaten deep into the pockets of the States, as they had spent a lot of money already and might not be able to sustain the lockdown for a long time. Since “prevention is better than cure”, they canvassed that the Federal Government grant them some special funds just as it had done to other States. 

They mandated their Chairman to liaise with the Federal Government through the Minister of Finance, Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 and the Private Sector donor basket, in order to benefit from available palliatives and donations.

As for Testing Centres, the Governors lamented that the region had no testing centre’s yet, which was very disturbing. They resolved to again liaise with the Federal Government to ensure that each State at least gets one testing centre while highly populated ones get two.

The Governors also discussed the economic impact of Covid-19 on the region and decided that they needed to take a wholistic look at the economic prospects of the region with a view to repositioning it for less reliance on Federal Allocation and to prepare for the future by diversifying to areas of comparative advantage such as agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and human capital development.

They consequently set up a 7-man Committee chaired by Governor of Kebbi State Atiku Abubakar Bagudu to fashion out the way forward. Other members are Governors of Kaduna, Sokoto, Kwara, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Gombe and Nasarawa State.

The Northern Governors also commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the measures taken so far to deal with the pandemic and promised to do their part in working with the Federal Government to overcome the disease.

They also commended the citizens of the region for supporting various directives of the State Governments in dealing with the situation, asking them to endure the situation, as it is a global emergency.

The meeting of the Governors was earlier preceded by the meeting of Secretaries to Governments of the 19 Northern State, which was presided over by the Secretary to the Government of Plateau State, Prof. Danladi Abok Atu.

Francis Lahnim Kusa