•Says Reps’ll oversight them
•Moots laws for disbursement of funds, renege on public donations
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA — Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, yesterday asked Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the whereabouts of visiting Chinese medical personnel, saying their activities in the country must the oversighted by the parliament.
The enquiry was directed to the Minister of Health 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 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 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 federal government to rev up the fight against the virus.
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 the Chinese company responsible for this arrangement is complying with your directives?”
The speaker also wondered why there were little incidents of COVID-19 cases in the northern part of the country, considering the fact that the virus was 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?” He queried further.
Gbajabiamila also mooted the enactment of some legislation 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 COVID-19 funds might 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.
He said: “What we are trying to do is to see if 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, the power to appropriate these monies. This is because to do otherwise may make it 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.”