Ahmad Lawan, the senate president, has called on the Federal Government to immediately institute ways of providing relief for poor Nigerians whose daily livelihood will be affected as a result of the restriction on movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement by Ezrel Tobiowo, the special assistant (Press) to the senate president on Thursday, March 26, 2020, in Abuja, Lawan made the appeal at a meeting between the leadership of the National Assembly, some ministers and heads of government agencies.
The senate president said that aside mulling a total lock-down of business activities in the country, a plan must be devised by the Federal Government through the release of funds.
He said specifically the funds should be for the purpose of purchasing food and pharmaceutical supplies for ordinary Nigerians.
He warned that not making provisions ahead of time to address the basic needs of poor Nigerians may likely lead to more problems for the government, and less result in controlling the spread of the disease.
The Senate President said “Our prayer is that we are able to overcome this menace of COVID-19 in good time because it is really taking a toll on our lives. If we have to eventually shut down our country, then as a government we must be prepared to have some relief for the most ordinary people”. Countries around the world such as Germany, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America have allocated billions of dollars to provide relief for their citizens and residents.
Mr Lawan is asking the government to use government funds to provide this relief as is being done by other nations. He stated “I’m not seeing anything at the moment targeted at providing some relief. If we lock-down Nigeria today, that will wake-up trouble, because the majority of our citizens go to the market every day before they can get something to eat. So, you lock them down in their houses with a threat of disease and without food”.
Apart from food, Nigerians have other basic needs. There is also a need for housing, shelter, and to pay for utilities. The Senate president noted that the government has to have a plan in place before there is a lockdown that affects farmers, traders, markets, and pharmacies.
He called for the government to be ingenious in finding solutions for the Nigerian people to deal with the current challenge posed by coronavirus.
In addition, the senate president urged the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, to establish more testing and isolation centers as soon as more funds were released to it by the Federal Government.
He added that the Senate Committees on Appropriation, Finance, and National Planning would provide oversight to the NCDC on the strict application of the N6.5 billion to be released for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I believe that our Committees on Health, in the Senate and in the House, must be alert to this, when funds are released, so that they (NCDC) don’t just go on jamboree spending the money elsewhere.
“Where we may not achieve this kind of spread that is extremely necessary,” the Senate President said.
Lawan also assured the Executive arm of government that both Chambers of the National Assembly would be readily disposed of should the need arise, to work on the planned review of the 2020 budget before the legislature reconvenes on April 7, 2020.
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