The deteriorating state of the economy, especially at the sub-national levels would be the main focus when governors of the 36 states of the federation hold the 17th Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) teleconference meeting, today.
This indication was contained in an invitation sent out to the governors by the Director-General of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) Mr. Asishana Bayo Okauru, late last Monday.
A statement signed by the Head, Media and Public Affairs of the NGF, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, in Abuja, yesterday, quoted the invitation as saying that governors would rob minds with the Presidential Economic Advisory Council, represented by its Chairman, Bismark Rewane, to x-ray the management of state economies, their challenges, opportunities and policy solutions.
The statement read in part, “Rewane had chaired the committee when it resolved the gridlock on minimum wage between states and their workers about a year ago. He will be making one of the two presentations scheduled for tomorrow’s meeting.
“The sub-national economy will again feature prominently as it will become up again when the governors discuss their participation in a summit organized by the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), which is due to take place, a month from now, precisely on the 26th and 27th of October, 2020.
“The NGF is partnering with the NESG to organize the summit, which is more of an NGF-NESG roundtable than anything else because governors are featuring very prominently in each of the 26 segments of the roundtable and its plenaries.”
Bello-Barkindo further explained that the two conversations are geared toward preparing the state governors for their post-Covid-19 recovery plans and ensuring that, maximum impact of the reforms is felt by the sub-national populace.
Participants at the NGF meeting can access the virtual conference room from 1:00 pm but the meeting will start at 2:00 pm.
Also, the governors are to receive several other updates about partnerships with donor agencies and partners.
One of the updates being expected is that of the Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa-led committee, mandated to interface with the Presidential Task Force on the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is expected to speak on the conclusion of the CACOVID flag-off and distribution of palliatives as well as the Basic Health Care Provision Fund.
The Sokoto State Governor, Hon Aminu Tambuwal, who is the vice chairman of the NGF, is also expected to give an update on discussions on Executive Order 10, while the governors are also expected to discuss the security situation in the country, giving special attention to the situation in Zamfara State.
Mother And Child Hospital To Be Commissioned Soon, Wike Confirms
The 258-bed capacity Mother and Child Hospital in Rivers State is to be commissioned soon.
The two- storey complex also has 50 delivery rooms and six modular theatres, among other modern facilities.
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, announced this, yesterday, when he led members of the State Executive Council on an inspection tour of the Hospital and the Rumuogba Flyover Bridge.
Wike said the health facility would provide specialist services for mothers and children.
He stated that government plans to open the facility for public use before the end of 2020 and has ordered the contractors to speed up the installation of equipment and furniture.
“Within the next one month, we hope that all the equipment and furniture will be installed.
“As a government, we are committed to improve our health facilities so as to provide quality health care delivery in the state.
“The facility was conceived to be a partnership between the state government and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
“But the NDDC did not fulfil their own part of the agreement. The state government decided to construct the facility because of its importance to the state.
“This is the first Mother and Child Hospital in the entire South-South. It is a specialist hospital that will take care of the children and our mothers.
“After commissioning the hospital it will be attached to the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital to also train doctors,” he stated.
Wike also said that there was an intensive upgrade of facilities at the various zonal hospitals across the state to make them functional.
He stated that his administration would not solve all the problems in the health sector before 2023 but would strive to improve on what was met on ground.
According to him, when the rehabilitation of all the zonal hospitals across the state was completed, healthcare delivery would receive a major boost.
Commenting on the progress of work at the Rumuogba flyover bridge, the governor said, it was satisfying to see what proper deployment of scarce resources can achieve.
“I am satisfied with the extent of work at the Rumuogba flyover. This work started in October, 2019 alongside the flyovers at Rebisi and Okoro-Nu-Odo.
“It is a job we must commend. I decided to take members of the State Executive Council to come and see the project with their eyes.
“Whatsoever money that the council has approved, we have made sure that it is being used properly.
“We did not make a mistake by giving the contract to Julius Berger Nigeria PLC.
“We are confident that the Rebisi flyover will be opened to traffic in December, 2020,” he added.
No Going Back: Labour Insists On Reversal Of Fuel, Electricity Tariff Hike
The organised labour, yesterday, insisted that the Federal Government should revert back to the old prices of petrol and electricity tariff, if not the strike will stand.
This is as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, and the President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Quadri Olaleye, had a hot altercation over the letter to President Muhammadu Buhari to reverse the prices of petrol and electricity tariff.
Meantime, Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF), Boss Mustapha said that deregulation of the petroleum sector was long overdue, but the TUC President maintained its previous position that government should revert to the old prices before any discussion would continue.
The meeting, which took place at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, had in attendance the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva; the Minister of Power, the Minister of State, Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, SAN; and some relevant agencies and parastatals.
Sources at the technical session which was under closed-door said that the labour has not changed from its previous position that the government should go back to the old prices of petrol and electricity tariff.
In his presentation, the TUC President had told Ngige to withdraw the statement that the centre was not right to write to President Muhammadu Buhari, arguing that as the President of the country all the economic decisions end on his table.
Besides, Olaleye during his presentation insisted that the TUC stood on its earlier submission that the government should reverse the increases before they would resolve on anything.
He had said, “The most important thing to us today is that we are here, we are engaging with you. Like I mentioned in the last meeting we had here that if we have been having constructive engagement in the past, maybe we would have been able to solve some of these problems.
“But the government turned a deaf ear to us even before the arrival of the world enemy Covid-19, we have written to the government suggesting an alternative way to run the economy, but nobody ever listened.
“And I can send to you many communications from Labour movement suggesting solutions and now we have found ourselves in this situation but the truth of the matter is that Nigerians are suffering and it is our responsibility as Labour centres to fight for their rights, to protect their interest.
“N30, 000 minimum wage was agreed last year and now there is an increase in PMS price, increase in tariff of electricity, the introduction of stamp duty and some other hardship on the workers and their families. We live in a country where a worker is responsible for more than 12 people.
“At least, eight from his family and the other six from the in-law’s house. I wonder how N30, 000 will be able to cater for all these but instead of the government to look at a better way to increase our lot, we are the sacrificial animal to make the economy better for few people.
“I heard when the minister mentioned that the country belongs to all of us, I as a person except you change my impression, I believe the country belongs to the few politicians that take decisions and make policies that are very hard for us to live in this country.
“If the country belongs to all of us, the question is why are people running out of this country, our youths are running out of this country despite all the dangerous obstacles on the road, many have lost their lives.
“Can somebody run out of his father’s house when nothing is pursuing him? So definitely the answer is now. Let’s make the country to belong to all of us so that we can be a bona fide owner of our country.
“Democracy is all about the people, we voted a few people who represent us at the government level and when decisions and policies are to be formed, we are the first to be considered.
“The politicians have scrapped the middle class that we used to have, they have taken away our hope, it’s either you are rich in this country now or you are poor. No more middle class and these are the things we need people to look into if we actually want peace in the country.
“Nigerian workers are suffering, a lot of people have lost their jobs especially during this COVID-19 and the only solution government could bring to their doorstep is that they should pay more for electricity, they should pay more to buy petrol.
“This hardship is getting too much, so whatever solution we are bringing, must be holistic, something that everybody will feel that the country belongs to all of us sir.
“Be that may, the Honorable Minister I wish to call your attention to your regular statement that TUC that TUC did not address the letter to you. I want to disagree with you due respect to your office, we honour your office and we will not do anything to undermine your office.
“But this issue is the issue that Mr President himself has to handle, we are not talking about the minimum wage, increase or any price with government, we are talking about economic issues and we have elected Mr President to lead and that is why we have addressed that issue to him.
“But if you want to insist sir, that because the letter is not referred to you, then TUC can excuse you I know it’s a statement of divide and rule which will not be acceptable to this congress sir.
“But I have to retreat that the submission of TUC as at last week still remains, that you reverse all those increases then you can come up with economic recovery solutions that you have.
“I know many times we have advised you to diversify the economy and we even mentioned the introduction of the issue of modular refineries and we have never had any feedback from the government”.
But reacting to the call for the withdrawal of his statement, Ngige said, “I have been the Minister of Labour and Employment for five years plus. I have attended all International Labour Organisation (ILO) sessions, Governing Board and General Assembly, I have not missed any.
“The competent authority of every country is the Minister of Labour. In many climes, it’s Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Minister of Labour and Public Civil Service Affairs and Minister of Labour and Social Investment.
“The Minister of Labour is the competent authority of any country. In those countries too, labour matters are first addressed to the Minister of Labour.
“We have not tried to enforce this rigidly as it should be but in other climes, all labour and industrial matters and social security are channelled to the government to Head of State through the Minister of Labour.
“I don’t want this to continue. I have raised it with the TUC President before. The TUC President after being elected did not see his Minister of Labour, he did not correspond to Minister of Labour about the election, he went ahead to book an appointment to see Mr President and Mr Vice President.
“I will not sit on this seat and allow this to continue. All correspondence to government, President should come to the Ministry of Labour, that is the channel. If I don’t react, you can report me by doing a reportage to a higher authority but as far as Nigeria is a concern, I’m the competent authority here on labour matters.”
Speaking earlier in his opening remarks, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha said that deregulation of the Petroleum sector was long overdue.
He said that the policy was not to inflict hardship on the masses, adding that at the end of the day the people will be better for it.
He said, “The president has said that no government decision taken is intended cause any pain or harm ”.
President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said that Labour was the only organisation that is pan-Nigeria and that the best way to address challenges, whether social economy or labour issues was to try to proactively engage Labour and have its perspective.
He said, “We are here to continue with the dialogue that started last week. As you are aware, after the dialogue, we were able to update all our members.
“We are here to find a lasting solution to the perennial issue of the twin challenges of the increase in pump price in the name of deregulation and also the issue electricity tariff increase, which we have explained the impact on Nigerian workers, but importantly the larger Nigerian society.
“I think the argument has been the same – people want to see a reduction in those prices which will then improve the lives of Nigerians, particularly workers.
“Clearly, part of the challenges is that this new increase has also reduced our purchasing power and eroded the gains that we have been able to make with the minimum wage, whereas we speak, many states are yet to implement.”
RSNC Gets New Helmsman …As Njiowhor Takes Over From Ukwe
The outgoing Acting General Manager of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation (RSNC), Mr Goodluck Ukwe, has formally handed over to the most Senior Director in the corporation, Mrs. Juliet Njiowhor.
She is also the new Acting Editor (Daily) of The Tide Newspapers.
Ukwe, who took over from Vincent Ake, the former General Manager of the corporation in April, 2020, formally retired from the Public Service of the Rivers State Government on September 15, 2020.
Speaking during the handover ceremony, Ukwe thanked the management and staff of the corporation for the cooperation and support extended to his administration.
He said that since April when he took over, the corporation has remained afloat despite the economic challenges in the country occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ukwe listed some challenges facing the corporation to include lack of fencing of the premises to ensure security of employees, and the moribund rotary machine, obsolete printing machines, amongst others.
Responding, the Acting Editor (Daily), Mrs Juliet Njiowhor, commended Ukwe for his leadership qualities, which ensured that the corporation bounced back after a three-month shutdown, and has remained afloat since then despite the economic challenges in the country.
Njiowhor said that the legacy of the outgone Acting General Manager would be sustained, and called for the support of the management and staff of the corporation to take the state-owned newspaper outfit to the next height.
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