Udora Orizu in Abuja
Following the increasing number of people requiring treatment from the COVID-19, the House of Representatives at the plenary yesterday mandated the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to immediately develop contingency plans for the establishment of emergency care facilities at the Federal Government Colleges.
The House said the contingency plans should include cost estimates for the provision of equipment, materials, medicines and other requirements that may become necessary.
The Green Chamber also directed the 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 NCDC.
It further urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as part of its policy measures in response to the COVID-19 to act urgently in funding the establishment and operations of these emergency health centres across the country.
This was sequel to the unanimous adoption of a motion of urgent national importance titled: ‘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 among the Population’, which was sponsored by Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, Hon Ahmed Wase and eight other lawmakers.
While presenting the motion, Gbajabiamila commended the activities thus far taken by the federal government to prevent the occurrence of COVID–19 pandemic in the country.
He, however, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to exercise his authority under the Customs, Excise Tariffs (Consolidation) Act to remove any import or excise duty on essential medical equipment as determined by the Minister of Health in order to manage the disease effectively.
The Speaker said the House is aware that the country has a very limited window of opportunity to act in preparation for the possibility of a large scale breakout.
He expressed concerns that the existing healthcare framework and facilities in the country are not sufficiently robust to provide an effective and lifesaving response in the likely event of a large scale outbreak of the COVID-19 within Nigerian shores.
The lawmaker said: “We do not have adequate 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. 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, we cannot reasonably expect not to experience the same. We risk job losses on a massive scale, and we also risk severe economic misfortune for the vast majority of our people.”
He added that the lawmakers are determined to act quickly in one accord to avert some of these consequences and ensure that the worst effect of this emerging crisis is cushioned.