The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has declared a state of emergency on sexual and Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
The forum made the declaration in a communiqué signed by its Chairman and Gov. of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, on Thursday in Abuja after the governors 10th COVID-19 teleconference meeting held on Wednesday.
The communique noted that the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, addressed the forum members on the rising cases of rape and GBV in the country, which has escalated threefold since the enforcement of the COVID-19 lockdown.
It stated that the governors condemned all forms of violence against women and children and committed to ensuring that offenders face the maximum weight of the law.
The forum called on governors yet to domesticate relevant gender-based protection laws, including the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, the Child Rights Act and the updated Penal Code to do so.
The forum also urged members to increase protection for women and children, as well as ensuring speedy investigation and prosecution of perpetrators in addition to creating a sex offenders register in each state to name and shame.
“Invite the Commissioners of Police to provide a detailed report on the actions taken to strengthen their response to sexual and gender-based violence through the Family Support Units and Force Gender Units at the State and Local Government levels.
“Governors will commit additional funding for the prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence through appropriate Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
“Endorse the Communique of the meeting of the First Ladies in Nigeria which held on June 7 to evaluate and mobilise action to check the alarming rate of sexual violence against women and girls and indeed all forms of violence against women,” the communiqué read in part.
It also disclosed that the NGF Chairman at the meeting provided an update on the forum’s meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed; and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami.
The communique stated that the team of governors discussed the implications of the contentious Executive Order 10.
The order, among others, mandated the allocation of appropriated funds to the state legislature and state judiciary in the state appropriation laws in the annual budget of the state as a first line charge upon the consolidated revenue fund of the state.
The governors congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari for the decision to postpone the formal publication of Executive Order 10 of 2020 in the Official Gazette to enable further consultations among all stakeholders.
The forum resolved that it would through its Committee led by its Vice Chairman and Gov. of Sokoto State, Mr Aminu Waziri, continue meeting with the delegation of the Conference of Speakers and other stakeholders.
This, according to the forum, was to work out modalities for resolving all concerns regarding the order amicably.
“The NGF reiterates the position of members that the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 takes into account the crucial role of State Governments within Nigeria’s federal system in responding to pandemics in the country.
“Specifically, State Governors should be conferred with the powers, among others, to declare any place within their State an infected area;
“Make regulations and directives towards prevention and further spread of an infectious disease within the State; establish States’ Centres for Disease Control.
“The discretionary powers of Mr President and the NCDC Director General in the proposed Bill should be reviewed.
“Finally, while cautioning on certain human rights violations in the proposed Bill, Governors also highlighted potential contraventions with the Nigerian Constitution.”
The communique also disclosed that the forum also received updates and presentations from the Governor of Delta State, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa-led sub-committee interfacing with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to provide a coordinated strategy for the Federal and State Governments to relax the COVID-19 lockdown.
It stated that the forum endorsed the work of the committee to consolidate measures to gradually open the formal and informal sectors of the economy.
These, according to him, especially include agricultural activities in rural areas, manufacturing (including the distribution of goods across States), markets, construction, hotels and restaurants (take aways only), and worship centres based on existing COVID-19 protocols.
It stated that the governors also agreed with the PTF to prioritise government’s response in hotspots across the country that account for the largest share of COVID-19 cases.
“Governors are encouraging citizens who have COVID-19 symptoms to go for testing to ensure that they receive timely care and that their families are protected from being infected.”
It noted that states were already working with the PTF to ensure that there were operational testing laboratories in each state.
It called on each state government to develop a strategy for opening its economy based on the Guidelines agreed to by the PTF and the NGF.
“So far, success has been recorded in improving the supply and availability of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), with five companies certified by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to locally produce PPE.”
The forum noted that the governors also received briefing from the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF), Suleiman Abba (IGP Rtd) on the Police Trust Fund (PTF).
The PTF is a special intervention fund established by the Police Trust Fund Act to provide funds for, inter alia, the training and welfare of personnel of the Nigeria Police Force.
The governors called on Abba to ensure that the composition of the PTF Board was representative of the country’s diversity as well seek legal advice on the funding sources of the organisation.
It stated that the advice was key as the current arrangement in its Act which, amongst others, sources its funding from 0.5 per cent of the total revenue accruing to the Federation Account violates the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution.
It noted that the meeting also received the World Bank Team led by the Country Director, Shubham Chaudhuri, who gave an update to members on the US$750m additional financing under the State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Programme for Results.
The governor commended the World Bank on the provision of US$750m additional financing for the State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Program for Results (SFTAS).
“State Governors pledged to ensure that their Ministries of Finance, Budget and Planning are positioned to access available funding to strengthen the COVID-19 response of State governments,” the communiqué said.