Over the last 4 months, the governors of Nigeria’s 36 states have had their tenures as leaders assessed by one primary metric; how well they have been able to prepare for and mitigate the Coronavirus pandemic. States like Lagos, whose governor was vilified for the state’s decision to ban okadas and keke NAPEPs (tricycle) without introducing alternative solutions to the state’s travel needs was suddenly redeemed by the state’s response to the pandemic while states like Kogi and Cross River refused to even acknowledge the pandemic. Four months later, we assess how their negligence or proactiveness has affected the fortunes of their electorates.
Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina, North West)
Katsina state has been in the news all of 2020 for all the wrong reasons. The President’s home state has experienced an unprecedented rise in bandit attacks, rivaling Zamfara state in 2018-2019. It has become such a scourge on residents of the state, that in the last two weeks of June 2020, 70 people lost their lives in bandit attacks with hundreds of other gravely wounded. The state police is helpless, and Governor Aminu Bello Masari seems unable to convince the Federal government that Katsina state is in a state of emergency and requires necessary military support to repel the bandits.
Governor Masari’s last public statement on the matter was at an interactive session with reporters at the Government House, and his comments lay bare just how dire the situation is in Kano state.
‘I don’t know what to tell them. I cannot look at them in the face because we have failed to protect them, contrary to our pledge to ensure the security of lives and property throughout the state.’
Peaceful protests have become the norm in Katsina state with online activism finally spilling out into offline protests involving members of the National Association of Nigerian Students and National Association of Katsina State Students. The state governor’s response to the legitimate agitations of the citizens was to arrest at least 20 students and detain them in police custody. Guess how many bandits have been arrested and detained?
To make matters worse, the bandits in the state signed an agreement with bandits to ‘limit’ their illegal activities, and boasted about it.There is no honour among thieves so it comes as a surprise to no one but the state governor that the bandits reneged on the agreement. A final word from Governor Masari?
“In our efforts to honour the agreement between us, we cancelled all vigilantes and volunteer groups and we allowed them (bandits) to continue with their normal activities in the state”.
Darius Ishaku (Taraba, North East)
Taraba state, like much of the middle belt states of Nigeria, has been plagued with communal and ethnic clashes. Food security has triggered a new wave of communal clashes between Tiv and Jukun ethnic groups in the state, displacing agro-allied farmers who are accused on infringing on ancestral farming lands. The clashes have led to killings, destruction of properties, farm produce and displacement of people whose major occupation is farming.
For a state with a history of crises, Governor Darius Ishaku has done very little to anticipate and mitigate the conflict that the introduction of commercial farmers would bring to the local food market, and the National Catholic Diocesan Priests Association, Jalingo Diocese are placing blame for the current rash of violence which began in Takum local government area and has spread to 5 local governments squarely at his feet. Here’s a damning portion of their official statement.
“It is unfortunate that even the rules of engagement in wars are no longer observed. Consequently, innocent children and defenceless women are today targets of murderous acts. “The Taraba State government under Darius Ishaku, with the support of the Federal government should invest more time and resources in the security of the State.”
Will Governor Ishaku accept blame for the breakdown of peace in Taraba state, or does he have a scapegoat waiting to absolve him of blame?
Yahaya Bello (Kogi, North Central)
What is worse than a governor who refuses to plan adequately for a global pandemic that has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. A governor who actively denies the very existence of the disease. After months of insisting Kogi state had structures in place to arrest the spread of Covid-19, the state finally recorded its first high profile death, in the person of Chief Judge Nasir Ajana. He is one of 3 cases officially announced in the state, even though Governor Yahaya Bello has challenged the facts and claimed his state was disease free.
He doubled down on this assertion during the prayer session organised for the repose of Chief Justice Ajana, informing the audience that the Coronavirus diagnosis was propaganda being forced on Nigerians.
“Whether medical experts and scientists believe it or not, COVID-19 is out to shorten the lifestyle of the people, it is a disease propagated by force for Nigerians to accept.”
It seems there are parties aside the governor who are willing to resort to violence to disrupt any efforts to appropriately address the pandemic in the state. Gunmen attacked the Federal Medical Center in Lokoja to disrupt a press conference scheduled to allow health workers share their concerns about the pandemic and demand testing centres. The families of patients who were allegedly abandoned by hospital staff were blamed, but no one has been arrested and no tangible proof exists that this is true.
Pressure seems to work because the state government recently announced it had partnered the United States Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) to set up a reference molecular laboratory for COVID-19 tests. We’ll have to wait and see if it actually pans out.
Duoye Diri (Bayelsa, South South)
It might be a little premature to objectively assess Governor Duoye Diri’s work as governor of Bayelsa state considering he has only been in office for four months, but dire times call for extra scrutiny. Besides the main opinion on Diri’s capacities as a governor is the response of his constituents, and so far the report card has been scored quite poorly.
The governor is yet to choose a cabinet to work with him to execute his campaign promises. The last person to lag this long before choosing a cabinet was President Buhari. An empty cabinet means that the MDAs in the state cannot function properly and cannot respond to internal challenges. This inaction has led to the increase of violence against women and girls, as alleged by the Gender Response Initiative Team (GRIT), a gender-based human rights group based in the state. The NGO led a protest march through major streets of Yenagoa, to raise awareness over 58 cases of gender-based violence reported during the lockdown. That means those that were not reported can be more than these. Diri is yet to domesticate the Violence Against Person Prohibition (VAPP) law passed by the National Assembly since 2015.
He is doing poorly on the Pandemic as well. 20 members of the Association of Resident Doctors have contracted the dreaded Coronavirus due to a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the non-payment of Hazard allowances that ideally would allow these health professionals source these items privately. Diri might be at the start of his tenure as governor but with his current track record the only place he can go is up.
Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa, North Central)
Governor Abdullahi Sule might have inherited nearly a decade of delayed promotions in the state’s health service, but he didn’t have to continue the legacy of predecessor. That is what he did, perpetuating the injustice meted against the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) in Nasarawa state by delaying payment and refusing to make available hazard allowances. The second infraction is especially egregious considering the state is battling the Coronavirus pandemic. The governor’s negligence has led to a state-wide strike that includes 700 union members protesting the deaths of 26 health workers, including six medical doctors, who died from COVID-19 complications.
This strike only worsen what is a rising situation in Nasarawa state and puts precious constituent’s lives at risk. The governor has a lot to answer for.
5. Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta, South South)
Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa really proved himself a decisive governor when earlier in the year, he was one of the first state governors to exercise state autonomy and impose a strict lock down and movement restrictions to curb the spread of the Coronavirus in the state. His decisive action helped delay the spread of the pandemic in the state and provide citizens with the necessary support to deal with the lifestyle changes that would come with the pandemic. Now the Delta State Governor is taking things a step further and divesting the government house of power over the state’s judiciary. He has signed into law, the Judiciary Autonomy Bill into law, official separating the powers and revenues of the state judiciary from the state executive.
The Nigerian judiciary has in the last few years had its integrity eroded as interference from the federal government has led to many questionable decisions. The State Chief Judge of Delta state, Justice Marshal Umukoro, commended both the governor and legislature for the speedy process culminating in the signing of the bill. ‘The Delta State Judiciary Fund Management (Financial Autonomy) Law, 2019’, grants the Delta state judiciary full autonomy to handle its own finances, which will allow for better payments in the judiciary system and freedom to prosecute erring government officials without fear of economic retribution. A true win for democracy.
Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu, South East)
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi knows a thing or two about money. He understands that in a global pandemic, sectors of the economy that deal primary in import and export trade as their primary source of revenue will be disprportionately affected by the decision to restrict travel to control the spread of the Coronavirus, seriously hindering the capacity for businesses to honour their financial obligations, especially taxes owed to the government. In response to the pandemic and as a way to kickstart the economy as the country eases on restrictions, the governor has announced that his government is grant tax relief to individuals and businesses and offering incentives to tax payers in the state.
“The deadline for the submission of Form A for employees and Annual Returns in accordance with Section 41 (3) and 81 (1-3) of the Personal Income Tax Act (PITA) 2011 as amended for companies and institutions operating in Enugu State has been extended to 30th July, 2020. A waiver of penalty and interest charged for late remittance of Pay As You Earn (PAYE) deductions is hereby granted from January to December 2020 for all sectors. A 50% discount on all assessed Capital Gains Tax (CGT) from now till December 2020. A 50 per cent discount to all Personal Income Tax Assessment issued to owners of Schools and Hotels for Year 2020. A 50 per cent discount of all assessed Land Use Charge payment for Year 2020. This discount will expire on 31st of December 2020. A waiver of penalty and interest on Land Use Charge for Years 2018 and 2019 once payment is made before December 2020.”
By waiving personal incomes taxes and market taxes specifically, the governor is ensuring that even the poorest in the state get a much needed reprieve and time to rebuild and refocus their energies on getting themselves through the pandemic. This is the kind of proactive leadership Nigerians deserve.
3. Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna, North West)
Kaduna state has shown leadership in the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic and has even successfully treated Mallam Nasir El-Rufai the state governor when he contracted the virus. Now the state is ramping up its efforts to successfully curtail the spread of the virus by expanding its efforts into community testing. The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Amina Mohammed-Baloni, is leading this initiative and has explained that health workers will physically visit communities and survey citizens as a way to help identify persons showing symptoms. A mobile lab has been secured to hasten testing and results and isolation will follow in one of the state’s isolation centers.
So far, 29,771 households have so far been visited as part of the active household case search. 297 persons with symptoms that mirror Coronavirus symptoms have been tested. This new directive is in line with new information from the World Health Organisation that suggests, indoor airborne transmission is a serious concern for families who have members who must go out to earn a living. Community testing will help reduce the transmission from infected persons to their families. With two tests conducted by the Wellness on Wheels mobile laboratory, donated by the NGO USAID, Kaduna state health professionals will be able to separate similar diseases like Tuberculousis and other lung related illnesses from COVID.
With the capacity to test 64 people a day and swift turnaround time of 15 minutes between testing and results, Kaduna seems primed to turn the tide of the pandemic in the state.
Seyi Makinde (Oyo, South West)
Governor Seyi Makinde has proven himself the dark horse of this election cycle, coming out of relative obscurity to win the election, bucking all the expectations the citizens of Oyo state had for him, and apologising when his egregious errors (like hosting a political rally in the middle of the coronavirus) led to personal and professional consequences. As a result, people are intently watching his governance style as a yardstick for what is possible in Nigerian governance. Makinde is taking things a step further by looking beyond the current fight to contain the Coronavirus to a recovery plan post-COVID. This is why the governor has inaugurated a N1billion Micros, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Scheme expected to stimulate the state economy, providing a loan cushion for small businesses to restructure and rebuild post COVID-19.
The governor is also pumping much needed revenue into the economy by releasing N180 million to help cover outstanding gratuity and pension payments for civil servants who retired from active service in 2013. It is only a drop in the N26 billion backlog the state owes to 6,300 pensioners but it is a step in the right direction. The governor has already cleared the debts owed to retirees from 2011 and 2013. In tandem it is also ramping up its testing and treatment efforts for the Coronavirus, focusing its efforts on community testing rather than the state wide testing other states have implemented thus far.
Seyi Makinde, all thrusters firing for the greater good of the state.
Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos, South West)
Governor Sanwo-Olu has been the clear front runner in the efforts to mitigate the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, and his efforts at leadership are beginning to yield progressive results. Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) generated a phenomenal N25 billion through taxes alone in the state. This is impressive when put in consideration that Lagos was one of 3 states in the federation that was forced to institute a total lock down for 6 weeks, grinding all non-essential services and losing millions of dollars in potential revenue. Governor Sanwo-olu has attributed this unprecedented success to the urgency with which the government embraced the automation of government processes within the state and the statewide adoption of partnerships with financial institutions to ease payments.
Governor Sanwo-olu is not content though. He is committed to fully implementing automation across as many levels of revenue generation as possible to ease the economic bottlenecks in the state, reduce corruption and improve service delivery. Plus that N25 billion has already come in handy in supplementing the state’s response to the pandemic.
Nobody envisages that there would be a time that the whole globe would be lockdown and people would not be able to do anything.
“We were able to collect N25 billion in April when there was total lockdown,’’ he said.
According to him, this is a good achievement.
The Governor also approved a 3-month moratorium for micro, small and medium enterprises in the state, as part of reliefs to help them through the COVID-19 induced economic crisis.
In the month under review, following allegations of sharp practices, the Lagos Government terminated the contracts of some operators with the Lagos State Waste Management Authority, stressing that the operators violated some terms of their agreement with the government
Folasade Adefisayo, Lagos commissioner for education: "I started a crowdfunding efforts with our partners to buy radios and we will start distribution of 10,000 radios tomorrow so that the children can join radio lessons. #TheCableLiveInterviews#Lockdown#COVID19HomeSchooling pic.twitter.com/CCuAojnfjs
— TheCable (@thecableng) June 28, 2020
About 20,000 children have been given a phone containing an app called Roducate. Local authorities plan to roll out the scheme to 300,000 children in the coming weeks.
According to government projections, the coronavirus pandemic will present challenges to full school reopenings for at least a year, so Lagos’s education ministry is working to make public education provision less reliant on the classroom.
“It’s quite clear we are not going to go back to how things were,” said Folasade Adefisayo, the city’s commissioner for education. “We will have to manage this virus for a while, and we’ve found e-learning to be efficient and interesting. The children love the app, and so far we see it as being a part of how they can learn going forward.”
Exams will still be held in schools, she said, but officials will conduct studies on the effectiveness of digital learning on results.
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Journalist, Political Analyst and Satirist with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.