….Members protest channel of communication

..displeased by their exposure to Coronavirus by noncompliant colleagues

OrderPaperToday– A memo from the Presidency to the National Assembly expressing concern over refusal of lawmakers to submit themselves to compulsory testing for Coronavirus infection at airports is currently causing ripples among members of the National Assembly.

For starters, OrderPaperNG gathered that the leaked memo, which was addressed to the Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, and copied to Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, ruffled feathers of the lawmakers because of the channel of communication through which the message was conveyed.

The memo was sent from the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President and signed by the chief of staff, Mr Abba Kyari.

It raised concerns over the issue which was said to have been reported by the minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire and the chief of staff noted that the alleged breach by the lawmakers poses a national threat as the procedure is the first line of defense against the virus.

As at morning of Monday, 23rd March, 35 cases and one death had been recorded from Coronavirus infections, which were transmitted from returnees from foreign trips.

A member said while speaking on condition of anonymity that while it is wrong for legislators to refuse to subject themselves to compulsory Coronavirus checks, it is improper for a “personal staff” of the president to “direct an arm of government.”

He stated, “It is wrong for members to so act but the letter is an abuse of democratic Institutions for personal staff (aide) of Mr. President to direct the head of an arm of government. It is a denigration of our institutions.”

A matter of breach of privileges of lawmakers by the chief of staff to the president could very likely be raised tomorrow when the lawmakers convene for plenary.

But more seriously, the legislators, according to inside sources, are said to be highly unsettled by the fact that they are now unduly exposed to contracting the dreaded virus from their colleagues who have been called out in the memo. The identity of the members was not included in the document.

Recall that the House of Representatives had earlier resolved to adjourn plenary due to Coronavirus but did not follow up with a specific time for the break.

Similarly, the Senate president last week urged his colleagues who have recently returned from foreign trips to have themselves tested for the virus.

With recent developments, it is expected that the National Assembly will proceed on a break to prevent a spread of the virus from members who may have skipped the scanning process at the airports.

Earlier, the spokesperson of the House of Representatives, Mr. Benjamin Kalu (APC, Abia), condemned the alleged act by his colleagues, saying the “virus is no respecter of persons, social status or political positions of individuals or economic status. It affects the rich, the poor, the beautiful and the ugly. It does not discriminate against any societal symbol or status. So people should make efforts at all times to obey the minute rule that will make Nigeria safe.”

He added, “It is quite unpatriotic for anyone to pass through the airport without presenting himself for two three minutes screening. It is unpatriotic because you might not know if you have it or not. Those basic things that you need to pass through, one minute, two minutes would not delay you in wherever you are going to.
“However, it has also been alleged that some persons who failed to pass through the screening are not members but if the Ministry of Health is sure that these persons we are talking about are lawmakers who have decided to go against the the directive of government, then they should not hesitate to make available such video clips so that members who are found wanting could be fished out and punished.
“Anyone found wanting should be arrested and prosecuted because if you are careless about your health, what about others that you are going to come in contact with?”
The House spokesperson also advised members not to be offended by the source of the letter or whether it was addressed to the speaker of the House of Representatives or the Senate president as the most important thing here is raising the consciousness that is needed at this moment so such letters.
“Rather, I would advise that we take the content and intention of the letter instead of bothering ourselves with where the letter is coming from or going to.
“For me, the letter is in order. If members are angry that they were wrongfully accused, then that is an issue for another day. So right now, let us focus on the intent of the letter which is to make Nigeria safe and great for all of us,” Kalu charged.
Speaking on whether the House has any intention of closing down plenary activities tomorrow, the spokesperson said discussions were underway and will be communicated to the public as soon as a decision is reached.
“As I speak to you, the leadership of the House is deliberating on that because we never envisaged the current Coronavirus outbreak in Abuja but be that as it may, we shall get back to you between today and tomorrow whether the House will adjourn against it earlier date of 26 of March, 2020.”
Recall that the House had said it would proceed on a one week break to allow members go back to their constituents to create awareness on the menace of out of school children in the country.

 

Find attached a copy of the letter:

 

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