Last week, the senate approved a $22.7bn loan request by the president, the house of reps sought a break because of COVID-19, and civil groups kicked against tomorrow’s public hearing of the social media bill…
Last week, Nigeria’s legislative houses were in the news for different reasons, not least among them the senate’s approval of a $22.7 billion loan request by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Not everyone is sold on the loan, even within the senate, despite the senate president’s twitter handle claiming it was a “unanimous decision.”
According to the presidency, the loan is to help execute key infrastructural projects but some senators said the geographical spread of the projects is lopsided and wanted each item of the request debated, rather than a blanket approval which was finally given.
Opposition to the senate’s social media bill continues unabated, with a public hearing of the bill titled “Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019” set for tomorrow, March 9.
A large number of civil society organisations (about 100) have kicked against tomorrow’s hearing, labelling it a resuscitation of “an obnoxious bill that had been hitherto unanimously rejected by the people” and should not be further considered for public hearing to be funded by tax-payers’ money.
On its part, the lower legislative chamber, the house of representatives, moved a motion to give itself a break because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) which has infected about 100,000 people and killed more than 3,000 across the world.
Despite Nigeria’s exemplary success in containing the virus so far, with only one case (under quarantine), the lawmakers are spreading fear, lamenting that there is nothing being done to adequately prepare the national assembly in the event of the spread of the virus among staff and visitors.
But according to the director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, members should rather assist the efforts of the federal government by coming up with a sustainable budget in the fight against the spread of the virus in Nigeria, instead of causing panic among the general public.
Ihekweazu rightly noted that if other citizens of the country are to toe the line of lawmakers, then businesses, schools and offices would shut down.
Everyday Nigerians are already taking precautions with the use of sanitisers becoming widespread. The house should justify their stupendous allowances and help come up with precautions to prevent an outbreak rather than seeking an excuse to stay away from work.
Meanwhile, the United States government has placed a $7 million (N2.5 billion) bounty for information that leads to the arrest of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the insurgent group, Boko Haram.
This was announced via a tweet by the US Department Rewards for Justice Programme last Wednesday.
The timing is appropriate, as Nigerians continue to voice their outrage over a proposed commission to rehabilitate “repentant” Boko Haram members. The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urged the senate to drop the bill noting that the legislation would enable “repentant terrorists” receive foreign education.
This will include accessing funds from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETfund) and subventions from the government.