By Akanimo Sampson
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, says federal legislators will be monitoring the activities of the Chinese medical personnel in Nigeria.
The Chinese medical team came into the country on Wednesday for the delivery of materials and equipment to the Federal Government in the fight against the coronavirus.
But Gbajabiamila did not say how they will be monitoring them nor disclose any security technology to assist them in detecting any unwholesome play of the Chinese.
He simply harped on the need to monitor the movement of the Chinese medical personnel, claiming that it is important following fears expressed by Nigerians over their coming into the country.
Gbajabiamila also hinted on the need for legislation on donation to the government by the private sector and individuals.
The Speaker was speaking in Abuja on Thursday during a meeting on the update on COVID-19 between the leadership of the National Assembly and the Presidential Task Force (PTF).
He, however, emphasized the need for legislation for the disbursement of government and private funds for the pandemic, saying without legislation, coupled with the fact that disbursement of government “funds must be as prescribed by law, spending from the COVID-19 funds may become a subject of litigation.’’
He also expressed disappointment with the disclosure that medical and other personnel at the entry points and hospitals working on the coronavirus pandemic are yet to be paid hazard allowance.
He then inquired from the Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, about the whereabouts of the Chinese medical personnel and if they were subjected to the laid down protocol of the disease.
According to him, “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?
“My point is, let us begin to test everybody since the disease is highly infectious. We have a problem with 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?”
On the issue of legislative backing for funds devoted to the COVID-19 cause, Gbajabiamila notes 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 the 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 these 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,” he adds.
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.”
Responding, Ehanire says the Chinese medical personnel was duly tested and quarantined in a facility belonging to the Chinese company that was responsible for the arrangement, pointing out that foreign airlines and embassies were cooperative in solving the challenge of tracing contacts of the indexes of the virus.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of PTF, Boss Mustapha, is aligning with the position of the Speaker on the need for legislation, and also assured that a comprehensive welfare package is being processed.
Others at the meeting included the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, Aviation, Environment, Information and Foreign Affairs ministers as well members of the PTF on COVID-19.