R-L: Willie Obiano, Dave Umahi, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Eze Madumere

By OBINNA EZUGWU

The Southeast Governors Forum has expressed concern over the influx of Almajiri children into the zone in the light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic lock down and tasked community leaders to get involved in the effort to ensure that the children do not sneak into the zone undetected.

The forum which stated this in a statement signed by its chairman and governor of Ebonyi State, Engr Dave Umahi and issued after teleconference meeting on Thursday, also announced other plans for security of the zone, measures to contain Covid-19, among others.

The meeting according to the statement, also had in attendance, other leaders of the Southeast and discussed, among the things, “the current pandemic and its attendant challenges on our people, Internal Security, Agriculture for business and sustenance, Establishment of a stabilization fund for Ndigbo as a post-COVID-19 program and CACOVID Palliatives”

On efforts to tackle the new global health pandemic, the governors noted that the “Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID program) led by Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Dr. Godwin Emefiele (CBN Governor) is furnishing isolation centers in the States while NNPC has chosen to build isolation centers in Enugu and the Imo States. For these, we commend them all. CACOVID has also started the distribution of food items like 10kg bags of rice, tomatoes, and some other food items with the plan to reach at least a 10% population of every State in Nigeria. We also wish to appreciate the team for their gesture.

“The Forum reviewed the current lockdown order within our interstate borders and agreed to strengthen it further with new measures. However, we are very unhappy with incidents of interstate border lockdown abuses that led to the movement of non-essential movement of persons. We request the security personnel at our border posts to take this task very seriously to curtail the spreading of the pandemic.

“As we go through this period, to curtail the further spread of COVID-19, we will continue to enforce the NO MASK NO MOVEMENT, social distancing, regular hand washing, and sanitary guidelines.”

On security, the statement said, “The Southeast Governors are worried about the movement of almajiri youths concealed in food and cement trucks into the southeast region. While we commend northern governors on their decision that almajiris should go to their States of origin, we also advise our people against coming back to their States to forestall further spread of the pandemic.

“We, therefore, request our community leaders to get passionately involved to ensure that such illegal movement is not allowed.

“Seriously, SouthEast Governors will further strengthen our local security to protect farmlands and agriculture activities to encourage more participation in agriculture.”

With respect to agriculture, the governors said, “We encourage our youths to key into agriculture programs in the States as this would keep them busy and sustain the livelihood of lots of our people. Our youths should take advantage of the CBN agric intervention programs which are currently available. They can make contacts with their State’s ministry of agriculture on how to get involved, as this is of utmost importance now.”

The forum also said it would embark on massive testing for Covid-19 going forward.

“SouthEast Governors and leaders agreed to embark on massive testing of her people with a target of at least 5% of the population in the five States within the next two months. We are happy to announce that Imo State Government now has two testing centers while Enugu State Government will soon complete the setting up of a center in Enugu. Anambra and Abia are working on this while Ebonyi has been fruitful since February 2020 With these, we can vigorously pursue a wider number of tests among our communities.

“Forum also discussed a regional approach to a post-COVID-19 era. This proposed strategic planning will provide support for vital areas that we will be considering. Some of the areas we hope to prioritize are education, health agriculture, SMEs among others. The program will stimulate our regional economy.

“While we continue to provide palliatives in our various States to our people. We urge our people to continue with precautionary measures as provided by NCDC and be rest assured of the governors’ determination to continue to protect lives and support.

On Akanu Ibiam International airport rehabilitation, the governors said:

“The forum noted the progress made so far on the rehabilitation project of Akanu Ibiam International airport. We thank Mr. President for providing the enabling environment in the achievement of this project. We likewise commend the Honourable minister for aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika for his commitments. We appreciate the committee on the rehabilitation of Akanu Ibiam International airport, especially the committee chairman Engr. Chris Okoye who has worked tirelessly to see to the current achievement so far. The runway reconstruction and other newly added facilities are almost completed. We deeply appreciate the Governor of Enugu State His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for all the interventions he has always provided to enable this project to come this far. We are optimistic that Enugu airport will open when the nation’s airspace will be re-opened to regular flights.”

“The Forum wishes to congratulate the newly appointed Chief of staff to Mr. President, Amb. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari. We wish him the best as he resumes his new position.”