The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that Nigeria must do everything possible to prevent large scale outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Speaker noted that the restrictions imposed on the people as a result of the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun States, and the Federal Capital Territory and the curfews imposed by other State Governments were a necessary intervention.
Gbajabiamila said that these restrictions were a marked departure from the norm, adding that many of the people are understandably having a hard time adjusting.
This was contained in a statement made available to Newzandar News by Lanre Lasisi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Speaker.
“Honourable colleagues, as leaders in your constituencies, you must ensure that the people in your local communities understand the reasons for these restrictions, and adhere to all preventative measures such as handwashing, social distancing and other guidelines set out by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
“Our best hope is to prevent the massive outbreak of this disease in Nigeria. If we fail to do that, and this disease begins to transmit at scale, all our worst nightmares will become manifest at once, and our misfortunes will compound beyond our ability to respond. We will be left to seek our recover, with limited resources in a long and brutal process from which we cannot emerge unscathed. We must keep in mind this unfortunate truth and act accordingly.
“Many have postulated that our current approach to managing the pandemic will not yield the results we desire. It has been suggested that we should look at other alternatives in dealing with this virus; alternatives that are more suited to our economic structure and cultural makeup and are custom-made to our way of life.
“Recommendations have also been made to the effect that we should lift the lockdown, open up the economy with restrictions, including the compulsory wearing of masks in public places. We will consider all of these recommendations and more. Whichever way we go, the total defeat of this virus must be our immediate goal and our highest priority.”
The Speaker revealed that in preparing for the new reality the country faces, he has established a Covid-19 Strategic Response Team (CRST) with a broad mandate to develop interventions and reforms and to update the Legislative Agenda to reflect Nigeria’s post-Covid realities and priorities.
“The Strategic Response Team will be supported by a group of technical experts, private sector leaders and representatives. Their experience and expertise will ensure that the policy proposals presented to the House are rigorously grounded in a fact-based reality.”
Gbajabiamila said the House would work on legislation in that regard, saying “We intend to bring these unique perspectives in our ongoing work to codify the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP) into a Bill that will be considered by the House at our next adjourned date.
“We will also at that time seek to pass a second Economic Stimulus Bill to provide necessary relief to individuals and corporate organisations in Nigeria. We expect that before then, the Senate will quickly consider and pass the first Economic Stimulus Bill which has since passed in the House and now awaits concurrence by the Senate.”
He said the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated global economy, and that “at a time when the social welfare demands on the public purse are higher than they have ever been, our present reality calls for nothing short of a wholesale reform of our governing structures, systems and processes.
“Any such efforts must of necessity, begin with drastic reductions in the cost of governance coupled with determined efforts to drive economic diversity and innovation in the non-oil sector.”
“There are no longer any sacred cows, protected spaces or classes. Every area of our national health policy, economic policy, tax policy, education policy and security architecture are now on the table for reform.
“We must turn this moment of profound crises into an opportunity to make the hard choices we have too long deferred but can now no longer avoid if we are to survive as a nation. This House of Representatives is ready, and I trust that we will find allies in government and across our country who are prepared to make the changes that our country needs to survive, recover and thrive.”