By; IYOKPO J. EGBODO, Abuja
The House of Representatives has demanded emergency measures on the part of the Executive arm to protect the Nigerian people and the economy from the potentially dire consequences of a widespread outbreak of the Covid-19 among the populace.
The House, while adopting a watershed motion by the Speaker Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, 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 National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The House said this measure should be adopted if it becomes necessary to do so to manage high numbers of people requiring treatment from the Covid 19 disease.
The lawmakers also 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.
“These contingency plans should include cost estimates for the provision of equipment, material, medicines and other such requirements as may become necessary,” the House said.
The Green Chamber further directed the 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.
The House urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as part of its Policy Measures in response to Covid – 19 to act urgently to fully fund the establishment and operations of these emergency health centres across the country.
The lawmakers equally resolved to invite the governor and senior management of the 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 lawmakers commended the activities thus far taken by the Federal Government of Nigeria to prevent the occurrence of Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
They urged the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to exercise his authority under the Customs, Excise Tariffs, Etc. (Consolidation) Act to remove 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.
Moving the motion, Gbajabiamila said Covid-19 disease caused by the novel Coronavirus has emerged as the most significant threat to the physical, mental and economic wellbeing of the people and nations of the world.
He said 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. He said these numbers continue to increase rapidly, almost on an hourly basis.
Gbajabiamila argued that the novelty of “the disease combined with its rapid spread has caught the world almost unawares and there is, for the most part, no preexisting framework for managing the short, medium and long term consequences of the pandemic. As such we are left to adopt and implement emergency measures on the fly and in the expectation that our efforts may help to avert the worst consequences of this new threat.”
“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 largescale outbreak of the Covid-19 disease within our shores.
“We do 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.”
“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”, he said.