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Legislative indifference: A lesson from yonder

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By Opatola Victor

THE world has been awash with numerous cases of COVID-19, and as always good leadership has bridged the gap in many countries experiencing this outbreak, therefore helping to reduce the burdens on the citizens. A recent example is that of the United State Congress which, upon the outbreak of this pandemic, has been up and doing. Same goes for the UK parliament.

In the space of this period, the United States Congress passed into law three fundamentally important bills which reduce the burden on citizens. Such bills as:

  • The  Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020. The bill includes $8.3 billion in emergency funding to combat the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. The $8.3 billion is divided into $7.8 billion in discretionary appropriations and $500 million in mandatory spending. The $500 million is for “medicare telehealth mandatory spending”, which would allow medicare providers to furnish telemedicine services to seniors.

When broken down by category, the bill provides funding for the following purposes: a.) More than $3 billion for “research and development of vaccines as well as therapeutics and diagnostics, b.) $2.2 billion in public health funding to aid in prevention, preparedness and response efforts – including $950 million to support state and local agencies, c.) Almost $1 billion for “medical supplies, health-care preparedness, community health centers and medical surge capacity,” d.) $1.25 billion to fight COVID-19 internationally.

Broken down organisationally, the bill provides emergency supplemental funding for the following departments and agencies with the  United States Department of Health and Human Services: food and drug administration, centres for disease control and prevention, national institutes of health, public health and social services emergency fund.

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  • Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act: The bill contains provisions for the following: $500 billion for assistance to businesses, states and municipalities, with no more than $25 billion designated for passenger air carriers, $4 billion for air cargo carriers, and $17 billion for businesses critical to maintaining national security.

It creates a $349 billion loan programme for small businesses; allocates $130 billion in relief to the medical and hospital industries. It provides $1,200 to Americans making $75,000 or less ($150,000 in the case of joint returns and $112,500 for head of household) and $500 for each child; expands eligibility for unemployment insurance and provides people with an additional $600 per week on top of the unemployment amount determined by each state. The bill also expands tele-health services in medicare, provides the Secretary of the Treasury with the authority to make loans or loan guarantees to states, municipalities, and eligible businesses.

  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act: The law provides paid leave, establishes free coronavirus testing, supports strong unemployment benefits, expands food assistance for vulnerable children and families, protects front-line health workers and provides additional funding to states for the ongoing economic consequences of the pandemic, among other provisions.” It also addresses: 1. Paid sick leave and 2. Emergency family medical leave: This law also importantly provides Corona test to the citizens. Also included is the expansion of unemployment benefits. All these laws have been passed and signed into law.      A quick turn on Nigerian legislators has made the opposite the case. Upon the outbreak of coronavirus in Nigeria, our legislators went on a straight two weeks break while other legislators in the world are stepping up and rising to the occasion.

Few days ago, the UK parliament out of a deep sense of responsibility passed a Corona Virus Act 2020, a 358 pages document. All for the good of the citizens. What do we get from our legislators in times of emergency as this?

The National Assembly recently took delivery of newly purchased vehicles for its members when the whole country is in a panic mode. The banks are full of people withdrawing in panic.

Yet, despite all these escalations, what we get from our expensively maintained legislators is a “Sidon Look” attitude. An attitude of brazen unconcern, and effective dodging of leadership duties when the nation needs them most. What we, the citizens and electorate, get in return from our legislature is wanton abuse of power, thereby further putting the citizens at an escalated mode of the virus.

May God give us leaders in times that matter; may we also have the courage to put our leaders on their toes in times that matter.

Opatola, an Abuja based Legal Practitioner wrote via


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