…urge CBN to give cash grants to 774 LGs
…as Gbajabiamila bemoans Nigeria’s poor health care system, applauds doctors, others for sacrifices
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
In an unprecedented move to arrest the spread of coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, the 360 members of the House of Representatives have resolved to donate their two months salary starting for March 2020.
Announcing the resolution of the members via a video message of hope to Nigerians amid the disease, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila said the donation will be transferred directly to the National Relief Fund account for the fight against COVID-19.
He said that the donation was however separate from other contributions of the individual lawmakers in various spheres to cushion the effect of lockdown occasioned by the pandemic.
He said: “We have in the House of Representatives jointly committed to contributing one hundred per cent (100%) of our salaries for the next two months to the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria.
“Our contribution will support provisions for the welfare of frontline medical professionals and health workers, and other interventions to provide for the wellbeing of all Nigerians through these trying times.
“Accordingly, I have directed the Clerk to the National Assembly to see to it that all members’ salaries are transferred to the National Relief Fund for this month and the next.
“This is independent of ongoing individual efforts by members to alleviate the suffering brought on by this virus and to improve the living conditions of citizens in their various constituencies.”
Gbajabiamila said the House would exercise its oversight power to ensure faithful administration of all emergency funds and contributions made so far to ensure they serve the purpose for which they were intended.
To this end, the House has already mandated the Committees on Health and Disaster Preparedness to diligently oversee the distribution of items donated by local and foreign donors to ensure proper management, he said.
The Speaker also said the House has urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make cash grants to the 774 local government areas in the country to alleviate the suffering of the masses.
“The House also calls on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as part of its Policy Measures in Response to the COVID-19 outbreak, to immediately direct cash grants to the seven hundred and seventy-four (774) Local Government Area administrations in the country to provide food and other essentials to at-risk individuals and communities.”
The Speaker enjoined all Nigerians to adhere strictly to the guidelines given by relevant authorities to prevent further spread of the disease, saying Nigeria could not afford to have a large scale outbreak of the disease.
“This crisis has exposed in the worst possible way the evident weaknesses of our health system. After this is over and moving forward, we must do everything in our power to ensure that we will never again come upon a moment such as this, as ill-equipped as we are now.
“The transmission of this disease at a scale for which our systems are not prepared is our biggest present threat. We alleviate that threat by self-isolating. The bad news of this disease is that everyone is a potential victim, but the good news is that everyone is a potential solution.
“Keep in mind that if we do not rigorously follow these self-isolation guidelines, all our other efforts will at the end of the day come to nothing. Let this be for all of us, a time for introspection and prayer, a time to commune with God. Let us spend time with our children. Study, write, meditate and exercise. Do whatever you must to get through this period but do it at home.
“We are at war and our mission is first to survive, and then to overcome. These objectives require that we act in unison and remain laser-focused on the challenge at hand. I ask all of you to continue to take care of yourselves. Follow the guidelines of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Do not disseminate information of uncertain provenance.
“Do not panic but make sure that those around you understand the risks of this disease and the challenges we face and must overcome together. If we do all that we are called to do at this time, it won’t be long now before we can with joy and thanksgiving together declare mission accomplished”, he said.
Decrying the poor health system in the country, Gbajabimila, however, applauded the sacrifices made by all the doctors, nurses and other medical professionals “who give their best through long hours in the laboratory, in hospitals and emergency care units providing comfort and treatment to mend the sick and heal our country.
“I thank you; your country thanks you. And I assure you that the House of Representatives will act to provide for you now in the heat of this battle against disease and death and after when we have won the battle and saved our land.”
The Speaker also commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the ongoing efforts of the Federal Government to manage the outbreak and alleviate its adverse economic and social impact on Nigerians.
“The House would in every way it could “continue to support these efforts to ensure that our people make it through this difficult time with dignity and peace of mind.
“A lot of the responsibility for managing this outbreak, caring for those who become ill and catering to at-risk populations will fall to the State Governments. I applaud those State Governors who have risen to the challenge of the times with innovation and steady leadership, I encourage them to remain steadfast.
“I ask that Governors of states that haven’t had any confirmed cases proceed as if they have, taking all precautions and making all the same preparations as in those states where there have been established cases”, he said.
The Speaker also expressed profound appreciation to spirited Nigerians who had made similar donations to defeat the pandemic.
“To all the individuals and organisations who have stepped up to support Federal and State Governments’ efforts to manage the present crisis, let it be that when we think of this moment and of the roles we have each played, our memories are filled with the remembrance of heroes and the names of those who in their lives fought for life and left the vivid air signed with their honour,” Gbajabiamila said.