By Bassey Udo
To provide further financial assistance to States, the National Economic Council (NEC) on Thursday constituted a committee to review the modalities for the repayment of the Federal Government’s Budget Support Facility to states.
The constitution of the review committee is coming just as the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) has unveiled plans to commence the deduction of the facility from the state governments’ share of the monthly allocations from the Federation Account.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who presided over the 128th meeting of the Council said the committee consists of representatives of the Federal and State governments.
The VP said bearing in mind all of the financial difficulties, the Council took the decision to review the plan to facilitate the commencement of the deduction of the loans from the affected states.
He said NEC resolved that representatives of the Governors’ Forum, the CBN and the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, among others, should meet to review the modalities ahead of the imminent deductions of funds from States, to repay the Federal Government.
The decision to carry out the review took into consideration the current difficulties the State governments are facing in trying to meet their financial obligations.
Also, during the meeting, the Council endorsed the revised National Social Protection Policy presented by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, preparatory to its submission to the Executive Council of the Federation and the National Assembly.
When passed into law, the new policy would replace the “2017-2022 National Social Protection Policy” of the Federal Government, which was reviewed in consultation with all States and other stakeholders.
The policy would be subjected to review every five years for update and accommodation of some emerging issues, including pandemics, insecurity and shock responsive social protection as well as new institutions.
The Minister said the expected benefits of the revised NSPP included, among others, the reduction of multi-dimensional poverty; promoting social justice, equity and inclusive growth; reduction of unemployment, social and economic vulnerabilities, and other threats to sustainable development.
NEC also resolved to constitute a committee of the Federal Government and State governors to liaise with other relevant stakeholders to find immediate and long-term solutions to the flooding problems ravaging various parts of the country.
The VP said the committee would be liaising with critical stakeholders, to support short, medium or long term efforts to mitigate the impact of flooding as well as finding lasting solutions to the issue.
The Council commended the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) for the vaccination of more Nigerians against COVID-19 pandemic.
The presentation of the COVID-19 Scorecard by the Executive Director of NPHCDA, Faisal Shuaibu, showed that over 127 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were procured and administered through collaborations by the Federal Government and other partners since the inception of the exercise.
Shuaibu said additional 10.5 million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines also procured by the Federal Government were being expected in the country before the end of the year, while 46 million people have been fully vaccinated, representing 42 percent of the total eligible population targeted for the exercise.
He commended Nasarawa and Jigawa State governments for their efforts in ensuring the take off of the accelerated COVID-19 vaccination exercise in their states.
Other highlights of the meeting included the presentation on State performance report on COVID-19 by head of the National Centre for Disease Control, John Oladejo, which showed that globally, the number of new weekly cases decreased by 6 percent during the week of 10-16 October, 2022 as compared to the previous week with over 2.9 million new cases reported.
The number of new weekly deaths, the report said, decreased by 17 percent, compared to the previous week with about 8,300 fatalities reported·
The report showed the number cases recorded were 265,741, while the number of cases tested were 5,593,537, with active cases at 3,593; discharged cases at 258,993 and deaths 3,155·
In addition, Council also received a report about a high burden of cases in 2021 compared to the same period in 2022, PCR testing declining significantly in 2022 compared to 2021, and more of ROT testing in 2022 compared to 2021.
No death was reported on the past week, with case fatality ration (CFR) for week 41 at zero percent.
The presentation also noted that there was an ongoing review of the COVID-19 protocols in the country.
On the presentation of the report on water sanitation and hygiene (WASH), by the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, the Council learnt that 28 out of 36 States have urban water utilities, with 16 States fully functional. Only 11 percent of schools in the country have basic water supply, sanitation and hygiene services.
The presentation urged state governors to prioritize the WASH Campaign and endorse the WASH Pledge Card, to demonstrate their commitment to make Nigeria Open Defecation Free by 2025.