Chinese Doctors under watch – says Gbajabiamila
Federal lawmakers will put the Chinese Doctors who are in Nigeria to join the fight against coronavirus under watch, House of Reps. Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said yesterday.
The House of Reps. Speaker said the need to watch the movement of the Chinese medical personnel followed suspicion expressed by Nigerians about their coming.
The Speaker spoke at a meeting of the leadership of the National Assembly with members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, led by its Chairman Boss Mustapha.
Also in the meeting with the PTF chairman are the Senate President Ahmed Lawan; Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege; Deputy Speaker Idris Wase; and other principal officers. Mustapha is the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
Fifteen Chinese medical experts, including 12 doctors, arrived in Nigeria on Wednesday with some medical equipment. They are in the country on the invitation of the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), according to Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire. They were immediately sent on 14-day isolation.
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Gbajabiamila enquired from the minister of Health about the whereabouts of the Chinese medical personnel and if they were subjected to the laid down protocol.
He said: “This engagement is to see how we can make things better. The Chinese medical personnel, are they coming to upgrade our laboratories, are you accepting them? Who are the technicians that have been running the Kaduna and Kano laboratories before now?
“Where are the Chinese personnel as we speak? How are you sure that the Chinese company responsible for this arrangement is complying with your directives?”
Ehanire said the Chinese medical personnel were duly tested and quarantined in a facility belonging to the Chinese company that was responsible for the arrangement.
The minister added that foreign airlines and embassies were cooperative in solving the challenge of tracing contacts of the indexes of the virus.
The Speaker also said since the disease is highly infectious, let the authorities test as many Nigerians as possible.
“My point is, let us begin to test everybody since the disease is highly infectious. We have a problem of contact tracing with people giving wrong addresses. Have you tried tracing them through the Immigration Service and telecommunication companies since there are other details that can be sourced from those windows?”
The issue of how to disburse the COVID-19 funds being donated by the private sector and other categories of people dominated discussion at the meeting.
Both Lawan and Gbajabiamila insisted on the need to appropriate the fund before it is spent.
The Speaker noted that disbursement from the fund without the approval of the National Assembly could become controversial.
“What we are trying to do is to see if constitutional provision is brought to bear on this issue as stated by Section 80 of the Constitution, that disbursement from the coffers of government can only be in a manner prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
“What we can do is to convene as soon as possible and give you, even if it is a one line item for you to appropriate this monies, this is because to do otherwise may become a subject of litigation, and the court can say you have no power to disburse from the money that is coming to the coffers of government,” Gbajabiamila added.
On the legislation against reneging on donations publicly made, the Speaker said: “Right now, there is no consequence for reneging on promised made on donations because there is no legislation. There must be some form of legislation to that effect, an instrument to compel pledges must be in place.”
Mustapha, in aligning with the position of the Speaker on the need for the legislation also assured that a comprehensive welfare package is being processed.
Lawan said: “I believe that we face one critical challenge today in our fight against COVID-19. We have donations made by various organisations, corporate bodies and so on but it is my candid opinion that there is no coordination.
“The corporate Nigeria, as I was told as at yesterday (Wednesday), has gathered N22 billion, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), I was told had $28 million, CBN and the banks, I don’t know how much they have. The National Assembly, the ministers and so many individuals and institutions have also made donations.”
The donations, the senate president advised, should go to just one common platform as against multiple accounts.
“I believe we must have a central body and not the PTF, not the corporate groups should receive and manage the funds but based on what the constitution provides for.
“Where everybody is just collecting and spending, I think it will lead us in a very bad shape. When people contribute their funds, they want to see such funds properly utilized. They want to see efficiency. They want to see transparency. They want to see accountability and of course, probity in what the funds are used for.”
The PTF chair said his panel will not be directly involved in the collection and disbursement of the cash for transparency and accountability.
Mustapha said: “The Accountant-General of the Federation has already published the account details for collection through some commercial banks and also provided the modalities for its utilization.
“All the main COVID-19 accounts shall be domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). However, all non-cash donations shall be duly received by the PTF, acknowledged, documented and appropriately deployed.”
He added: “Our nation is at war against a very dangerous, unseen and ubiquitous enemy and all hands must be on deck to successfully prosecute the war.”
The SGF also urged the National Assembly to develop among others, a legislative framework that will prepare Nigeria for any future pandemic.
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