By Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu
The President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, Wednesday called for concerted efforts by the government and parliament to find resources for Nigerian scientists to collaborate with international agencies to develop COVID-19 vaccine.
Lawan made the call at the public presentation of a research work on legislative responses to the COVID-19, in Abuja.
According to him, it will take some time for the National Assembly and the government to provide what would be called adequate health facilities across the country, hence the need for the country to consider vaccine production which is becoming a necessity for almost every country.
“I listened to a Nigeria scientist who is based in the US yesterday and he said it would require only one year for a Nigerian project to get its own vaccine. And the vaccine is not supposed to be for Nigerians only and that is why we need international collaboration,” he said.
Lawan also warned that Nigeria won’t be able to get 70 per cent of its citizens vaccinated, as the USA and EU are trying to ensure that no vaccines leave its shores until it is able to vaccinate its citizens enough to provide herd immunity.
He said: ”India that produces quite a lot of vaccines with over one billion population is also controlling and stopping exports. Where does that leave us? Nigeria has the capacity in terms of the human resources to some extent, even though we have lost most of our good ones to the developed world. But some of them are very patriotic.
”It is inevitable. Otherwise, Nigeria may not achieve the herd immunity in the next four or five years with our over 200 million population. And this is not a fact based on any scientific research. I don’t want to be misquoted. I am assuming that if it would take the US up to probably the end of this year to achieve 70 to 75 per cent of vaccination for those that are within the age bracket, some developed countries may be looking at next year.
”With over 200 million, see far we have only about four million. I don’t know how we can get 70 per cent of our people vaccinated and that will translate into about 150 million or even more. To vaccinate them in the next two or three years. So we need to work hard and provide the legislative intervention in terms of resources and environment for our scientists to work.”
On his part, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said the report would contribute to the body of knowledge on legislative responses in dealing with emergencies such as the COVID 19 and other pandemics that might emerge in the future.
Represented by the Chairman of the Young Parliamentary Forum of the 9th National Assembly, Kabir Tukura, the Speaker said the reports provide an in-depth analysis of the various interventions provided by the National Assembly as well as the states Houses of Assembly, vis-à-vis such other interventions provided by Nigeria and four other countries.
He said parliament the world over have put in concerted efforts to mitigate the risks through the passage of necessary legislative reforms and ensure adequate public funding for sensitive sectors such as the public health system.
Also speaking, the Clerk of the National Assembly (CNA), Olatunde Amos, said one of the effects of the virus is the near total destruction of the ability of legislatures across the world to effectively function as they were caught unawares, thereby denying the people an effective say in governance.
He said this informed why the Young Parliamentarians Forum (YPF) in the National Assembly, in collaboration with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), resolved to carry out a study into this and offer suggestions for better preparedness in future.
”Legislatures were caught napping and to a large extent, unable to effectively carry out their statutory roles including acting as a check on Executive action and effectively representing their constituents and guaranteeing good government. Motions and bills were left pending, oversight was abruptly suspended, hearings were called off and members of staff were compulsorily sent home as the legislative systems almost grounded to a halt.
”Many years from today, posterity and future lawmakers will be kind to the political and bureaucratic leadership of the National Assembly for this endeavour as there is no doubt that it will contribute to the body of knowledge on dealing with similar emergency situations in legislatures across the country,” the CNA said.