…It’s unpatriotic to evade screening; I did, tested Negative-Kalu, House Spokesman
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA-The Presidency has asked Senate President, Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila to immediately direct all members of the National Assembly who recently returned from foreign trips to subject themselves to test for the deadly coronavirus.
The directive was contained in a letter seen making the rounds on social media on Monday.
Though, the authenticity of the letter was yet to be established, it however carried the insignia of the federal government on a letter head paper boldly written “State House, Abuja”.
Dated March 21, 2020, the letter signed by the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari with reference number SH/COS/TP/03 was addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
It however indicated a mix-up at the last paragraph where it accorded some courtesy to the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan instead of Gbajabiamila.
Similarly, the first paragraph of the letter also gave an indication of omission of some words in the sentence.
Contacted to authentic the source and confirm the receipt of the letter from the Presidency, the Speaker’s office rather asked Journalists to direct all their enquiries to the office of the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs.
“Good afternoon, please kindly direct your questions to the Chairman of the House Committee on media. Thank you”, the Special Adviser to Gbajabiamila on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi said.
The letter read thus: “It has been brought to the Honourable Minister of Health recently reported to this office that some members of the House of Representatives are refusing to subject themselves to medical screening at airports
As you are aware, these airports screenings are our primary line of defense and refusal by any citizens to subject to these tests is a threat to our nation.
“Accordingly, you are kindly requested to direct all members of the House of Representatives who returned to Nigeria from foreign trips to report themselves to the nearest NCDC test centre with immediate effect
“As always Distinguished President of the Senate, please, accept the assurances of my highest regards”.
House Spokesman reacts
On his part, the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Benjamin Kalu when contacted by Vanguard said that Nigerians should concern themselves more with the contents of the letter than the source.
Though, he was yet to establish the authenticity of the letter, Kalu enjoined his colleagues not to take the letter personal.
He said it would be unpatriotic to evade screening at the airports, asking the authorities to pull the video of recent foreign arrivals at the airports to fish out the culprits
Asked if he subjected himself to screening having returned from an oversea trip recently, the House Spokesman said he did and tested negative to the virus.
He said: “Though we have not established the authenticity of that letter, for me, I don’t want to dwell on where the letter originated from. What I am interested in is the massage found in the letter. Whether it is from the right source or not, the issue there is that we dwell on the content. The content is that people should subject themselves to screening when they enter into the country.
“Who drafted it shouldn’t be our concern so to say. The issue is that this virus is no respecter of persons. It does not discriminate along social status line. It affects the poor and the rich. So, political status or economic status has nothing to do with subjecting yourself once you enter into the country or passing through the airports or any other place that has a screening machine. There must be a reason the screening machine is there. So people should pass through it.
“It doesn’t have to be only House of Reps members. Any member of the public that is passing through where is a screening machine should be humble enough to be screened because all of us are fighting for the health of the nation. It is very unpatriotic to avoid going through such machines if you are coming through the airports or anywhere they installed them.
“So, my message is also if actually the letter came from the presidency, then, they should be commended for it. I don’t think the House should be feeling attacked by the Presidency. No. I don’t think that is the intention of the letter. The intention of the letter is that we should wake up and be conscious of every little step we take in managing this crisis because it a global crisis. Members of the House should not take it so personal. I don’t think the writer of the letter meant bad. I think they meant well.
“I personally passed through the screening. My result was negative. If it was positive, I won’t be here. I came back from Dubai. I was in Dubai the same time the Speaker was in Dubai. When I came back, I passed the screening machines that they put at the airports and the video cameras are there to say that. I am sure from the camera of the machine that captured you to the video cameras at the airports, you will see those who avoided it and those who passed through it. So, it is very wrong for any body to avoid passing through the screening machines, quite unpatriotic. And I don’t believe members of the House did that but if any body did that, he should be called to order. They should also get the video clip. There is a manifest from all the airlines”