GOVERNORS of Nigeria’s 19 northern states have warned President Muhammadu Buhari against introducing a lockdown across the region in response to the coronavirus pandemic saying that it cannot be sustained economically and will come at too high a cost.
Although Nigeria only has 343cases of coronavirus and has suffered just 10 deaths, the federal government has taken firm action to contain the spread of the pandemic. Yesterday, President Buhari extended the lockdown in Lagos and Ogun States and the Federal Capital Territory Abuja for a further 14 days in a nationwide broadcast.
Despite the fact that the federal government’s measures have been praised as preventative, there is widespread concern about the economic impact of the lockdown. In Lagos and Ogun states, there is now widespread unrest as hardship bites because the government has not backed up the lockdown with the distribution of essential items like food, medicines and toiletries.
Yesterday, the Northern States Governors’ Forum met via teleconference and decided that it cannot lock down its region because doing so will come at a high cost. Governor Simon Lalong, of Plateau State, the chairman of the forum, added that the governors agreed to approach the federal government for funds because the preventive measures they have put in place have eaten deep into their pockets.
According to Governor Lalong, they also resolved to strengthen preventive measures through enhanced boundary controls and surveillance. They also pledged greater collaboration to ensure that there is synergy among them in the fight against Covid-19.
Dr Makut Macham, Governor Lalong’s spokesman, said: “They agreed that at the moment, each state would adopt the measure suitable to its setting because a total lockdown of the region will come at a very high cost since most of its citizens are farmers who need to go to farms since 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 have recorded cases while others are making frantic efforts to prevent any outbreak, as well as prepare against any eventuality.
“This they observed has eaten deep into the pockets of the states as they have spent a lot of money already and may not be able to sustain this for a long time. Since prevention is better than cure, they canvassed that the federal government grant them some special funds just as it has done to other states.
“Also, the northern governors lamented that the region has no testing centre, which is 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 holistic 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 set up a seven-man committee to be chaired by Atiku Bagudu, the Kebbi governor, to fashion out the way forward.”