Immediately after the Opening Remark, we had Governor Kayode Fayemi address Nigerians by answering specific questions relating to COVID-19 and the state of Ekiti?
He said, “On March 11th, 2020, the outbreak was officially declared a global pandemic. Since then the World Health Organization, WHO has been leading conversations to manage the pandemic with measures. At the national level, the President Mohammed Buhari set up the CoronaVirus Committee. Most of the actions from the Federal Government have considerable input from state governments, Chiefly and jointly from the Nigerian Governors’ Forum.”
He added that, “Stakeholders all over the world have had all hands on deck in their response to dealing with this pandemic. At least, 34 of our 36 states now have people who are infected with the COVID-19 virus. This pandemic has, mostly, been unkind to our senior citizens. Pandemic response is dynamic, and as leaders we are allowed to be guided by experts.”
While sharing some lessons, he explained that many have suggested the world as we know it will change permanently. He said, “It is no longer going to be business as usual. This crisis has taught us one thing, that we are only as strong as our weakest link. We are now forced to do a review of many existing businesses and government models. Nigeria must emerge from this crisis with a plan to create jobs, reduce poverty and put food on the table of our citizens. We must attract the investment required to bridge our infrastructure deficit and prioritize the provision of critical investment in education, healthcare, security and other social protection needs.”
He discussed solutions to salvaging the nation’s economy. “Agriculture,”, he said, “the mainstay of our national and sub-national economies has never been more important, especially as we seek to reduce hunger. COVID-19 has shown the importance of food security and our ability to call on the nation’s food reserve at this time only validates the federal government’s decision to prioritize food production. We absolutely need to create the enabling environment for the economy to grow again. We must ensure a skilled and healthy workforce is developed to benefit from these investments. We must optimize our population by preparing for the future of work; from early stage education to technical, vocational and digital skills training. We should equip our young people with the skills to take up jobs in the post-COVID-19 phase.”
In terms of Government expenses, he explained that with the reduction in revenue, we must reduce the cost of governance. “We need to explore various recommendations on streamlining ministries, departments and agencies of government to reduce wastage. We must also be ready to eliminate or minimize non-core expenses and also ensure the wage bill at all levels of government is accompanied by accountability, productivity and effectiveness of our workforce. There is an immediate opportunity to support business, particularly SMEs and women-owned businesses by modifying the conditions for existing loan guarantees and creating new opportunities that can encourage financial institutions to support small businesses recovering from the economic slowdown. In order to boost consumption, the government can also allow employees who have lost their jobs to access a portion of their pension contributions earlier than the period stipulated in the Pensions Reform Act. By focusing on job creation and poverty reduction, we will reduce the lack of opportunity which remains a big incentive for crime.”
As he closed, he said, “I must charge us personally to comply with the regulations stipulated by the government to curb the spread of this virus. Avoid spreading fake news and more importantly restrain from stigmatizing people affected or the ones who have recovered from the virus. COVID-19 is not a death sentence. Whilst every loss of life diminishes us, we must be careful not to put the nation into panic and paralysis as it is clear that the virus is going to remain with us for some time. I must salute the courage of our healthcare workers all over the country who are going beyond the call of duty to serve. This Workers’ Day is dedicated to you all.”