The Speaker of the House of the Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said the imperativeness of the management of the possible socio-economic consequences of the raging coronavirus (COVID-19) was the reason behind the drastic steps taken by the House as it adjourned for 14 days.
At the close of plenary on Tuesday and before the adjournment, Gbajabiamila explained that being a new disease that has taken the world by surprise with emerging socio-economic consequences, the House could not afford to pretend that Nigeria would be insulated from global reactions.
As a result, the House adopted a motion and passed for third reading another Bill, both aimed at holistically addressing the issue.
In a press statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, the Speaker explaining why the House took it upon itself to explore all alternatives, Gbajabiamila said, “We gather here today in uncertain times for our country and indeed for the whole of humanity. We are affronted by a new and deadly disease that threatens to forever alter the nature of our lives. We do not know how this virus and the disease it delivers have come to be.
“We do not yet have a cure for this disease or a vaccine to protect against the virus. What we do know is that over the last six months, hundreds of thousands of people have been infected all over the world, thousands have died, and the world economy is experiencing a contraction, unlike anything we have seen in recent history.
“It now falls to us, the government of the people to act quickly and decisively to forestall the worst consequences of a nightmare that has been made real. Before now, all the efforts of the government have been focused on preventing an outbreak in the country by enforcing a robust screening regime at our ports of entry.
“It is now clear that the time has come for us to develop and implement a more robust strategy, one that prepares us for the possibility of a significant outbreak with all the calamity that entails. We are glad that the government is now doing exactly this.
“We have never experienced a time like this. And we’re not alone. From the United States and North America to Europe and Asia, all the countries of the world are reacting to the challenge of the moment by adopting aggressive approaches to managing the outbreak of the disease and radical interventions to protect their people from the additional ravages of a global economy that no longer adheres to the old expectations that have underpinned our planning, our projections, and expectations.
“We owe it to our people to be just as aggressive and just as radical if doing so is what it will take to save our nation and prevent the tragedies of death, destitution, and devastation that threaten us all”.
While disclosing that the House will adjourn for 14 days in the first instance, the Speaker emphasized that it is not a holiday, rather, it is an act of necessity in furtherance of the social distancing and isolation guidelines that have proven to be effective in preventing secondary transmission of the Covid – 19 disease.
He said: “The leadership of the House will continue to observe developments and respond as the circumstances demand. If it becomes necessary, we may reconvene to act on emergency legislation and possible amendment of the Appropriation Act, 2020.
“The Clerk of the National Assembly will maintain essential personnel to ensure full compliance with sanitation, health and safety requirements in the National Assembly.
All activities of the House of Representatives are suspended for the duration, whether those activities are scheduled to occur within the National Assembly or outside of it. Members are enjoined to show faithful leadership by restricting all nonessential movements and observing self-isolation and social distancing according to the guidelines of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)”.
Before the adjournment, the House, following the adoption of a motion moved by the Rep. Gbajabiamila mandated the Federal Government to establish emergency care and isolation centres in every State, while also directing that the Federal Ministry of Health take urgent action to establish an emergency corps of medical professionals who will be deployed to manage the Ad hoc emergency care centres across the country as the need arises.
The House also passed the Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill 2020 aimed at providing a new regime of corporate tax rebates to encourage companies in the country to maintain their payroll status for the immediate term.
The Bill also grants a six-month deferral for payments on mortgages obtained by individual contributors to the National Housing Fund (NHF), in addition to the suspension of all import duties on medicines, medical equipment and other essentials required to help in the treatment and management of Covid – 19 disease.
“These are all temporary measures that we hope will help our country to more effectively manage this present crisis and emerge from it with the possibility of rebirth and renewal.
“This, we hope will prevent large scale job losses in an already fragile economy and allow our people to carry on their lives as best as possible in the event of a large scale outbreak of the sort we have witnessed in other parts of the world,” the Speaker noted.
While commending the brilliant and inspired intervention by Dr Amarachi Karen Allison, in Ogun State, who identified an index case and took quick action prevented the secondary transmission of the disease, the Speaker noted that the action bought the nation time and saved lives.
He said the House and the nation will not forget her sacrifice and those of other doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who will answer the call of duty in these difficult times.
“The leadership of the House of Representatives and indeed the entire House stand as one to assure you that we will ensure that you are provided with the tools you need to protect yourselves and to practice effectively. You will receive all that is your due, you will forever have the thanks of a grateful nation and you too will never be forgotten,” the Speaker added.