*to Oversight Covid-19 Spendings
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila has assured that transparency and accountability will be upheld in the conduct of the public hearing stage of the Control of Infectious Disease Bill, 2020.
The Speaker said the public hearing, which is expected to take place in the next few weeks, would be for two days and will be physical and open to submission of memorandum and position papers from members of the public.
Gbajabiamila, who spoke on Monday while receiving some Civil Society Organizations that paid him a courtesy call in his office said the effects of the Covid 19 disease during and after its outbreak are of paramount concern to the House.
The CSOs who were led by Clement Nwankwo, the Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), also had in attendance Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC); Mufuliat Fijabi, Chief Executive Officer, Women Trust Fund and Samson Itodo, Executive Director, Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA).
He said while the House would step up its oversight responsibility on issues and palliative programmes around Covid-19, the 9th Assembly’s Legislative Agenda would be rejigged to reflect the realities of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Saying that the House would continue to observe its weekly sitting and add more days where necessary, the Speaker assured that the House would continue to pass critical legislation during the Covid-19 period.
“On the Control of Infectious Disease Bill, we are aware that many of the comments it generated are genuine, some were political and some were clearly based on the misunderstanding of the bill but we can not ignore any and that is why we are taking it to public hearing.
“It is going to be conducted over two days and because we don’t want to endanger anyone’s life, all the Covid-19 protocols would be observed in a hall that is supposed to take 300 people, we will have about 40.
Those who could not make it the first day would have the opportunity to be there the second day.
“The public hearing would be physical because this is all about transparency and accountability. We don’t want to endanger the lives of Nigerians. It will be beamed live on TV and Radio but those that can not make it to the public hearing will have the opportunity of sending their memorandum to the House.
“The Bill that will be passed by the House will be the aggregate of the submissions of Nigerians”.
He also said the timeous passage of the first Economic Stimulus Bill was borne out of the urgency to address the economic implication of the pandemic on the country
“The Bill is meant to among other things avoid job loss of Nigerians and to ensure tax relief for Nigerians and their employees during these times. It also seeks to ensure the availability of funds for protective materials and sensitive materials needed by frontline health workers in their line of duty.
“I’m glad that the people have seen the necessity in the stimulus initiative which is the work of parliament and if people observe what is going on around the world, it is the legislature that designs the economic stimulus, the executive has the implementing power.
“The Economic Stimulus Bill is essential because it affects the revenue distribution for the nation, and anything that has to do with national revenue begins at the National Assembly”.
The Speaker added that, “in a few weeks, we will set up a Post Covid-19 response team, to look at how we react after the pandemic. The Police Act would be laid next Tuesday for consideration because to reform the Police is most necessary.
“We are also working on the codification of the Nigerian Social Investments Programs so that it is not subject to the discretion of any officer because that is what obtains in other countries.
“On the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan, we have our work cut out for us, oversight of the loan and other Covid-19 donations will be more vigorous,” Gbajabiamila said.
Earlier, the leader of the delegation, Clement Nwankwo of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) commended the Speaker and the House for rising to the occasion by its many efforts to proffer solutions for the novel pandemic during and after its outbreak.
“the leadership of the National Assembly have been doing a great job, first to say is how the House of Representatives has shown leadership in consultation pertaining the covid-19 era and particularly taken a lot of positive steps to address some of the issues of concern.
“Particularly on the fact that the Speaker has sponsored a couple of Bills, especially the Economy Stimulus Bill, looking at some of the raised concerns.
“We also appreciate the timeliness in the Bills and hope the implementation will be as efficient and expedited as the citizens expect”.
Auwal Rafsanjani, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), also urged the house to ensure effective oversight to checkmate the allegations regarding the sharing formula of palliatives of the Federal Government.
Samson Itodo, Executive Director, Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YAIGA) also commended the Speaker over the timeous passage of the Economic Stimulus Bill but expressed concern that though the House has passed the bill, it has yet to progress further, and advised the Senate to expedite action on Bill that addresses issues concerning the survival of the organized and informal sectors of the Nigerian economy for its eventual transmission to the President for assent.
Lanre Lasisi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Speaker, House of Representatives, Federal Republic of Nigeria.