…says Reps ‘ll oversight them
…moots laws for disbursement of funds, reneging on public donations
…as Deputy Speaker asks PTF to engage Nigerian engineers on the production of ventilators
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has inquired of the whereabouts of the visiting Chinese medical personnel, saying that their activities in the country must the over-sighted by the parliament.
The enquiry was directed to the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire at a meeting between the leadership of the National Assembly and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) led by its Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha on the updates of the team’s activities on coronavirus, Thursday in Abuja.
Gbajabiamila who needed to know if the health experts were subjected to the laid down protocols of the disease as instructed also said the need to monitor the movement of the Chinese medical personnel became had become necessary following fears expressed by Nigerians over the coming of the Chinese.
It will be recalled that 15 Chinese medical personnel came into Nigeria on Wednesday for the delivery of materials and equipment to the Nigerian government in the fight against coronavirus codenamed Covid-19.
He said: “This engagement is to see how we can make things better. The Chinese medical personnel, are they coming to upgrade our laboratories, are you accepting them? Who are the technicians that have been running the Kaduna and Kano laboratories before now?
“Where are the Chinese personnel as we speak? How are you sure that the Chinese company responsible for this arrangement are complying with your directives?”
The Speaker also wondered why there were little incidences of Covid-19 cases in the northern part of the country, considering the fact that the virus in highly infectious.
“What about inter-state immigration? Would you be surprised if you now have let’s say 500 cases in the north and you haven’t tested anyone in the north?
“My point is, let us begin to test everybody since the disease is highly infectious. We have a problem of contact tracing with people giving wrong addresses. Have you tried tracing them through the Immigration Service and telecommunication companies since there are other details that can be sourced from those windows?”
Gbajabiamila also mooted the enactment of some legislations for the disbursement of government and private funds for the pandemic.
The same, he said applied to persons who had publicly pledged to make some donations.
According to him, a piece of law should be made to discourage them from reneging on their public pledges.
The Speaker added that without legislation, the disbursement of government funds on Covid-19 funds may become a subject of litigation if there was no law prescribed by law to spend it.
He also expressed disappointment with a report that medical and other health personnel at the entry points and the hospitals, working to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic were yet to be paid hazard allowance.
“What we are trying to do is to see if the constitutional provision is brought to bear on this issue as stated by Section 80 of the constitution that disbursement from the coffers of government can only be in a manner prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
“What we can do is to convene as soon as possible and give you, even if it is a one-line item for you to appropriate this money, this is because to do otherwise it may become a subject of litigation and the court can say you have no power to disburse from the money that is coming to the coffers of government.
“Right now there is no consequence for reneging on promised donations because there is no legislation. There must be some form of legislation to that effect, an instrument to compel pledges must be in place”, Gbajabiamila said.
Also speaking at the meeting, the Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon Ahmed Idris Wase, urged the PTF to engage Nigerian youth who have exhibited the capacity to produce ventilators to help in treating coronavirus patients.
He cited the case of William Gyang and Nuhu Jibril, engineers based in Jos who volunteered and fixed two ventilators at the University of Jos Teaching Hospital (JUTH) which has broken down.
“The two engineers had said they have never heard of ventilators morning seen any in their lives before the coronavirus pandemic.
“I watched the video with the nostalgia of how some young Nigerians from Jos were able to put back broken down ventilators back to use and ironically, they said they have never seen the machines before,” he said.
“They (also) assured that with support from the government, they can produce the machine”, he said.
In his response to Gbajabiamila’s enquiry, the Minister of Health, Ehanire said the Chinese medical personnel that brought equipment and materials were duly tested and quarantine in a facility belonging to the Chinese company that was responsible for the arrangement.
The Minister also said foreign airlines and embassies were cooperative in solving the challenge of tracing contacts of the indexes of the virus.
On his part, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), and Chairman of PTF, Mustapha who aligned with the position of the Speaker on the need for the legislation also assured that a comprehensive welfare package was being processed.
Others at the meeting that included the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan were the Ministers of the Aviation, Health, Environment, Information and Foreign Affairs as well the members of the PTF on Covid-19.