A coalition of former Presidential candidates and aspirants has requested that President Muhammadu Buhari and the 36 states governors as part of urgent actions to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on the Nigerian people, as an imminent shutdown commences across the country, to donate 50 percent of their security votes into Covid -19 Special Fund.
The group also demanded payment of palliative to categories of Nigerians to alleviate hardship while the lockdown lasts, suspension of collection of Value Added Tax on products and services for three months and a moratorium on electricity tarrif for two months.
In a statement addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, leadership of the National Assembly and all the 36 state governors, the Coalition otherwise known as the Third Force Forum suggested steps to be taken by Nigerian leaders to give succour to Nigerians in this trying period.
The statement was signed by Dr. O. Favour Ayodele, Hon. Clement Jimbo, Hon. Okey Samuel Mbonu, Dr. (Engr.) Donald Igwegbu, Hon. Tope Fasua, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Okere-Onyung and Hon. Ishola Balogun.
While appreciating government’s efforts to mitigate the prevailing crisis, the coalition said this is in pursuant to the potential catastrophe the country faces at this time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To the Presidency, the former presidential candidates and aspirants demanded to “Convert 50% of the Security Vote & Catering Budget of Aso Rock, to a “COVID-19 Special Fund”, for the remainder of 2020, or the duration of the shutdown, to mitigate the effect of a national shutdown on the Nigerian people.
“Commence a programme to pay citizens with valid BVN, earning below N50,000 a month in Salary, or from self-employment, a monthly stipend of between N20, 000 & N40, 000 “COVID-19 Intervention Fund” with effect from March 31st, 2020 for the next 3 months.
“Commence a programme that allows businesses that are unable to remit VAT between the 20th of March 2020 and the 30th of June 2020 to do so by the 31st of March 2021, to enable a stable business climate, and adaptation to the demands of the pandemic.
“Establish a special COVID-19 Fund Raising Committee charged with the sole task of collating funds pledged from the organised private sector, well-meaning individuals, international community and other NGO’s.
The funds will be used to sponsor other palliative measures like the procurement of food stuff, face masks, and sanitizers to every local government in Nigeria, depending on need and a moratorium on electricity tariffs, for at least 2 months or more”.
They also demanded the facilitation of and an understanding with the Telecommunications Companies, to commit N2000 to N5000 in Recharge and Data, per month, over the next two months, to all mobile subscribers in Nigeria as well as an emergency legislation or Executive Order allowing a 3-month moratorium on Landlord evictions, as a result of the Stay-at-Home order by the government, in affected cities.
The Forum asked the National Assembly to “temporarily suspend the huge total compensation package enjoyed by our National Assembly Members, comprising of the Senate & House of Representatives (NASS), by 50%, for the remainder of 2020, or the duration of the national shutdown; and commit the saved resources to the aforesaid “COVID-19 Special Fund”, to pay Nigerians for the duration of the shutdown”.
They charged state governors through the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, Kayode Fayemi to “Convert 50% of the “Security Vote & Catering Budget” of the state “Government Houses”, to the aforesaid “COVID-19-Special Fund”, for the remainder of 2020, or the duration of the shutdown, to mitigate the effect of a national shutdown on the Nigerian people.
The Forum argued that “It is noteworthy that the “Security Vote” of each of the 36 State Governors is for security challenges; a public health and economic challenge are a security threat to our collective existence.
Hence, it qualifies for security vote appropriation, especially, in the midst of crippling poverty in Nigeria which is exacerbated by the COVID – 19 pandemic and ‘stay at home’ order already in force by various State Governors”.
It, however, warned that “failure to consider the above may set a stage for an eventual class-warfare in Nigeria, under circumstances of severe calamity in the country”.