COVID-19: Reps ask CBN to fund establishment of emergency centres

• Approve use of Unity Schools as isolation centres

The House of Representatives, on Tuesday, urged Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to as a matter of policy measures, urgently fully fund the establishment and operations of these emergency health centres across the country, with the view to contain the spread of coronavirus across the country.

Similarly, the house resolved to invite the CBN governor and senior management of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to brief the leadership of the house on the details of the apex bank’s policy measures in response to the COVID–19 outbreak including the procedure and requirements for the disbursement of earmarked intervention funds under the emergency policy measure.

The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion of urgent public importance on the need for the Federal Government to adopt emergency measures to protect the people and economy of Nigeria from the potentially dire consequences of a widespread outbreak of the COVID–19 disease amongst the population, sponsored by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and members of the Body of Principal Officers.

To this end, the house directed Federal Ministry of Education to immediately make available hostels in the now-vacated Federal Government Colleges across the country for use as emergency care centres and isolation units by the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) if it becomes necessary to do so to manage high numbers of people requiring treatment from the COVID-19 disease.

In the bid to achieve the feat, the house mandated Federal Ministry of Health and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to immediately develop contingency plans for the establishment of emergency care facilities at the Federal Government Colleges. These contingency plans should include cost estimates for the provision of equipment, material, medicines and other such requirements as may become necessary.

In his lead debate, Hon Gbajabiamila who affirmed that COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus has emerged as the most significant threat to the physical, mental and economic well-being of the people and nations of the world.

According to him, the alarming levels of spread and severity of the disease have caused the World Health Organisation (WHO) to rightly classify the outbreak of COVID-19 as a pandemic, as the spread of the disease has now reached every corner of the world with 341,000 recorded infections and 14,700 deaths globally. These numbers continue to increase rapidly, almost on an hourly basis.

While stressing the need for the country to adopt and implement emergency measures with the view to avert the worst consequences of this new threat, Hon. Gbajabiamila lamented that Nigeria does “not have enough hospital beds, Intensive Care Units, respirators, testing kits, thermal disinfection equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE). We are also short on the numbers of medical personnel required to manage a significant national outbreak of the disease.

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“The house is also disturbed that as has been seen from events around the world, a full-scale pandemic of this nature inevitably has a devastating effect on the flow of commerce, the development of industry and the economic output of a nation. In the event of a large scale outbreak here at home, we cannot reasonably expect not to experience the same. We risk job losses on a massive scale, we risk also severe economic misfortune for the vast majority of our people.

“The house is aware that we now have a very limited window of opportunity to act to first prepare ourselves for the possibility of a large scale breakout, then to ensure that we have in place an emergency health care system that can accommodate such an outbreak and finally to build sufficient economic resilience so that our people have sufficient cushion to survive through the worst.

“The house is certain that if we, in our capacity as representatives of the people, are determined to act quickly and of one accord, we have it within our power to avert some of these consequences and ensure that we cushion the worst effects of this emerging crisis, and all its dimensions.

“The house is cognisant that our interventions at this time require the full cooperation and support of the Executive Arm of government, without which not much will be achieved. Therefore, we will seek to act in unison, making sure that our interventions complement the actions already being taken by the ministries, department and agencies of the government, and support the plans already in place,” the Speaker noted.

The house also directed Federal Ministry of Health, to work with the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN) and other such stakeholders to develop plans for the deployment of a corps of doctors and medical professionals to these emergency care centres as the need arises.

While commending Federal Government’s intervention to prevent the occurrence of COVID-19 pandemic in the country so far, the House further urged Mr President to exercise his authority under the Customs, Excise Tariffs, etc. (Consolidation) Act by removing any import or excise duty on essential medical equipment as determined by the Minister of Health to be necessary for the management of COVID-19 diseases in the country.

Speaking during a post-plenary press briefing, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon Benjamin Kalu argued that the purported letter emanating from the office of the Chief of Staff to the President alleging that some members of the House of Representatives evaded screening at the airport was misleading and should be treated as fake news.

While frowning at attempt at casting aspersion on the integrity of the members, he urged NCDC to give any documentary evidence on the allegation.

To this end, the house resolved to adjourn plenary for two weeks.


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