N’Assembly to Approve More Funds for Security Equipment, COVID-19 Vaccine

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To pass PIB latest by May

By Deji Elumoye

The leadership of the National Assembly yesterday evening gave an assurance that it would expedite action on supplementary budget for the procurement of security equipment and COVID-19 vaccine whenever it is presented before it by the Presidency.

It also informed that the age-long Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which is at the point of its report being harmonised by both chambers of the National Assembly would be passed latest by May, this year.

President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, in the company of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, told journalists after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, about the purpose of their visit saying

“we have come to meet with Mr. President, to discuss issues of serious national concern, and one of those issues is the issue of supplementary budget.

“Both executive and legislative arms believe that we should have supplementary budget to provide for funding of the COVID-19 vaccination in Nigeria, as well as the security, providing more resources and platforms to our security agencies.”

He emphasised that the legislative arm would not hesitate to approve the 2021 supplementary budget of the Executive arm once it is sent to the Assembly.

Lawan however, stressed that the federal lawmakers in approving the budget consisting of votes for security equipment as well as cost for purchase of COVID-19 vaccines would want to know how the funds would be expended.

According to the Senate President, “We believe that we’ve not had enough, we still need to approve more resources for the purchase of weapons for our armed forces, because this is the number one priority of government or any government really, to secure the people, and of course later the welfare. So we believe that we will be doing the right thing, if there is a request through supplementary appropriation bill from the Presidency or Executive arm of government, and then we approve.

“Of course, we have to have clear cut definition of how much is going for what, we’re not going to just give approval like that for a general thing. We want to see how the funds will be utilised. But it is mandatory that we provide more resources for our armed forces, and they’re doing well”.

Lawan also explained that the Assembly would also be willing to support local manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines by eminent Nigerian scientists across the globe.

“As for COVID-19, I believe that our country, Nigeria should have some resources for our scientists to collaborate with other scientists from across the globe, to also have our own vaccine. We have capable scientists, we should have that critical mass of scientists coming together to provide the environment that will guarantee and warrant deployment of public resources but just an individual saying he has a system or he has a vaccine candidate. No, I don’t think that’s the way to go.

“We should have proper and serious engagement because vaccines developed in Nigeria will need to be applied or may be subjected to international assessments. So it’s not going to be a vaccine for Nigeria alone. It’s supposed to be a vaccine for the entire world but of course originated from Nigeria. So we want a very solid and strong platform on which our scientists will have all the opportunities and then government provides the necessary resources. But eventually, of course, those who will manufacture these things will be private concerns”.

Also speaking, House Speaker Gbajabiamila, told reporters that the PIB was at the last leg of legislation by the Assembly saying the bill should be ready for passage latest by May, 2021.

His words: “We made a commitment to the Nigerian people and that commitment is end of April. But let me just add that, you know, give or take two three weeks, because at the time the commitment was made, we didn’t take into cognizance the fact of Easter break and Ramadan that is coming up as well. We are still looking at end of April. But we’re not going to straightjacket ourselves into a particular date, when I say end of April, we are talking thereabout, it may be a week after or at most two weeks into May”.