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Reps Make U-Turn On Infectious Disease Bill, Set To Get Public Input Before Vetting

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The House of Representatives on Tuesday made a U-turn on its earlier bid to pass the contentious Infectious Disease Control Bill without subjecting it to a public hearing.

With the turnaround, the bill will now be thrown to the public to make input before it returns to the House for vetting and passage.

This is as the Senate introduced its own version of the bill titled “National Health Emergency Bill.”

The House bill titled “Control of Infection Diseases Bill 2020 sponsored by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila seeks to repeal the Quarantine Act and enact the Infectious Diseases Control Act.

It passed first and second readings in the House last week but attracted outbursts from the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) which alleged that the lawmakers had been offered $10million to pass it,

Some Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are already mobilising to shoot down the bill

Also, a former member of the Senate, Dino Melaye, filed an action at the Federal High Court Abuja, seeking to stop further consideration of the bill.

The House bill seeks to empower the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to order the administration of vaccines on all Nigerians in a bid to control infectious diseases.

Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, while addressing members at the resumption of plenary yesterday noted that since the introduction of the bill, there has been a barrage of criticisms against it, with allegations of sinister motives.

He explained that the bill was conceived because of the the “exigencies of the time” and in the best interests of Nigerians.

Gbajabiamila said the allegation that the bill was a sinister attempt to turn Nigerians into guinea pigs for medical research while taking away their fundamental human rights was far from the truth.

The proposed law, according to him, will, because of the controversy, be subjected to a public hearing where Nigerians from all walks of life would be given the opportunity to contribute to the draft law.

His words: ”Suffice it to say that none of these allegations is true. Unfortunately, we now live in a time when conspiracy theories have gained such currency that genuine endeavours in the public interest can quickly be characterised and misconstrued to raise the spectre of sinister intent and ominous possibility.

“This House will never take any action that purposes to bring harm to any Nigerian here at home or abroad.

“As we have thus far shown by our conduct, the resolutions and actions we take in this 9th House of Representatives will always be in the best interests of the Nigerian people who elected us, and no one else.

“In the recent uproar, certain fundamental truths have been lost and are worth remembering. Our current framework for the prevention and management of infectious diseases is obsolete and no longer fit for purpose.

“The current law severely constrains the ability of the Federal Government and the NCDC to take proactive actions to prevent the entry into Nigeria of infectious diseases and the management of public health emergencies when they occur.

“Even now, the government remains vulnerable to claims that some directives already being implemented to manage the present crisis do not have the backing of the law and therefore cannot withstand judicial scrutiny.”

According to Gbajabiamila, citizens may sometimes disagree with the “how” and the “why” of policy proposals, but that the parliament is not an echo chamber.

He stated’ “It is a marketplace of ideas where only those proposals that gain currency with the majority should carry the day. However, our disagreements must be grounded in a shared recognition that our present travails demand urgent interventions. And we must not allow ourselves to become victims of the cynical assumption that every policy proposal or response is a result of personal inducement or a grand conspiracy to bring harm to the people on whose behalf we hold political office.

”Subsequently, the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill will be put forward to a public hearing where stakeholder contributions will be sought to make improvements to the bill before it is reviewed and debated by the committee of the whole.

In the Senate, the bill sponsored by the Chairman of its Committee on Communicable Diseases and Primary Healthcare, Chukwuka Utazi, scaled first reading yesterday.

Many senators, however, appeared not to be in support of the bill which second reading has been slated for next week.

Senator Ike Ekweremadu, particularly, demanded a gazetted copy of the proposed law.

Ekweremadu, who relied on Order 41 of the Senate Standing Rules, said the bill is already generating controversies in the House of Representatives.

He insisted that as a senator, he has the privilege of going through the Bill before being read for the second time.

Ekweremadu said: “I rely on Order 41 of the Senate Standing Rule. As a senator, I am entitled to know the details of this Bill.

“We want to have copies of the gazetted copies. There is controversy over the same Bill in the House of Representatives.

“We don’t want to have the same issue here. We need to be guided to avoid any backlash. I need to read it and prepare ahead of time.”

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, consequently directed the secretariat of the Senate to make copies of the bill available to all the senators.

He ruled that the second reading of the bill will take place next week after Senators must have the Bill.

Lawan said: “The copies are ready and everybody will get a copy. We are not taking the second reading immediately. That will be done next week. So, members will have the time to read the contents of the Bill.”

However in an interview with journalists after the session, Utazi, explained that the content and intendment of his bill are not the same as the one before the House.

Utazi said: “Although I have not read the content of the one before the House but provisions such as compulsory vaccinations for all citizens and other compulsions for that matter, are not there.

“The main purpose of the bill is to strengthen our Quarantine Act by way of required amendments and to take care of all the issues that have to with the management of pandemic like the ranging COVID-19.

“In doing that, we want to ensure that instead of having a fire-brigade approach to solving the problem of this nature, we have a law that can handle all that. We want to put everything under a law to address health issues.

“I don’t see any controversy about the bill that 102 members of the Senate sponsored. The bill is to address the issue that is posing a public health emergency around the world.

“The Bill (Senate version) does not make vaccination compulsory. If you have yellow fever, and you want to travel outside the country, they will demand a yellow fever vaccination certificate at the airport. If you don’t have it, you will be vaccinated there.”

BIG STORY

BREAKING: Buhari Breaks Silence On Lekki Shootings, Pledges Justice For Dead Protesters

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Almost a week after, President Muhammadu Buhari has broken his silence on the shooting of #ENDSARS protesters in Lekki, Lagos by suspected security operatives.

He vowed to ensure justice for “peaceful protesters who lost their lives.”

The President, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, explained he decided not to talk on the shooting incident until he had access to all the facts.

He also promised property owners and business owners affected by the arson across the nation would get justice.

Buhari, according to the statement, said:

The statement said: “As the Judicial panel of inquiry set up by the Lagos State Government, one of the more dozen states to do so, starts sitting on Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed his full support and optimism that it will assist the nation to give justice to peaceful protesters who lost their lives, security men who were murdered and property owners whose assets were vandalized and looted.

“The President, who said he had all along avoided going into a debate about the Lekki Toll Gate incidents until all the facts are established, appealed to the people all over the country to maintain peace and brotherhood as the machinery of the government and the wheel of justice turn against the perpetrators of murder, arson, stealing, rape, assault and malicious damage to public and private property.

“President Buhari reiterated his appeal for calm, brotherhood and communal harmony, telling Nigerians not to turn on each other in hate as according to him, peace, brotherhood, and inter-communal harmony are central to the nation’s ethos.

“He said it is important that the police and other security agencies move everywhere to restore calm and normalcy as quickly as possible.”

The statement added: “A government that has launched a massive crackdown on corruption, brought in strong laws for a decisive battle against corruption, pursues loot recovery at home and abroad, and taken strong decisions against those who thought they were above the law, will not fold its arms when an otherwise legitimate and peaceful protest is turning into free-for-all vandalism and looting.

“While the administration has, for its part, blocked so many means of looting public money in a war against corruption, it is the expectation that all civil authorities, community and religious leaders in the country must rise against the organized looting and plunder we are witnessing in parts of the country.”

The President admonished families to reject items looted and brought home by their children.

He stated: “Families must turn back children who bring home unaccounted goods, in the same way wives must ask their husbands to return looted items brought home.

“What is more, is that criminal actions as we have so far witnessed can weaken and erode the confidence of our people and that of foreign businesses in investing in the economy.

“Looting and vandalism will hurt trade and investment growth in our country, both large and small industries, as well as our hardworking people in the informal sectors of the economy.

“These incidents do not reflect well on any society. They are wrong and condemnable and should not be supported by reasonable members of the society.”

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BIG STORY

#EndSARS: A Wakeup Call For Nigerian Media (The Fourth Estate Or Fourth Power Of The Realm) —- Blaise Udunze

Peter Okunoren

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I woke up this morning after my morning devotion; I dabbled into a mind-boggling report on my WhatsApp platform.

I told myself: The TRUTH be told, what are the roles of the MEDIA obligated and bestowed with the sole ethical responsibilities of being the watchdog of the society; must have PLAYED in the long-aged corruptions that have infested and given birth to loss of lives, heinous carnage, wanton destruction of our personal and national wealth over the years in Nigeria???!!!

After reading through this long revealing poetic but mind-boggling report on my WhatsApp platform, calls for concerns.

I was forced to cull the below excerpts of the old historic but recent report and adaptation of the events that pluck up and pull down many great African countries today.

“…Nigeria is fast ascending to the very path that Freetown took. The path that ruined Congo and Libya. The expressway to Rwanda, that is the path Nigeria is fast speeding into. Yet, this path is not a new path to us. It’s a familiar terrain that we have taken before. In 1966, long before even the Rwandan path was paved. We wasted over 3 million people as hundreds of innocent souls were slaughtered before even the war started.

 Long before the Rwandan path was paved, religious differences and ethnic intolerance as being repeated today led to a civil war that took our best, took our leaders, took innocent souls, and took us backward.

The backwardness is still hunting and hurting us till day. And, it’s the wounds of the war that was not treated in a round table talk, talk, that is leading to another war. Yet, the leader of the nation insists that he’s comfortable exactly the way things are.

 So, it’s either history is unfair to us or our leaders are blind to it. Indeed, death meant to kill a dog does not allow her to smell faeces. And, as the saying goes, those who do not understand history are bound to repeat it.

 Even if we hadn’t experienced a civil war before, what happened in Free Town, Monrovia, Abidjan in recent history ought to have taught us a lesson. The way Tripoli was turned from a fast developing city into a slave town where warlords reign should serve as a lesson.

 But no, we learnt nothing. Just “over” 50 years after, when those that played a major role in the last civil war are still alive, here the snowball of war goes rolling down from the snow mountain of stupid arrogance, gathering with it all the ethnic intolerance and religious divide that paved the path of Rwandan.”

 

Now, the key QUESTIONS:

1.      What roles will the Nigerian MEDIA (the Fourth Estate or Fourth Power of the Realm) are known for to have played in the history of NIGERIA OF TODAY & NIGERIA OF THE FUTURE?

2.      How can the MEDIA forthwith contribute greatly and use as tools for unbiased dispersion of information to show the dark side of every human lives and distribute truth?

Posterity will surely catch up with every genuine and qualified professional in this world of journalism, hence whilst, there is an urgent need and call to create that sense of balance and transparency in our society, in Nigeria.

I can’t say it all here. We all know the role of the Rwandan Media in the historic 1994 genocide amongst the Hutu and Tutsi of the Republic of Rwanda.

Amongst others, #ENDSAR Protest would pass as a litmus test for the Nigerian Media if they truly stand for the TRUTH and want to be identified for SHAPING PUBLIC OPINIONS/REACTIONS for PEACEFUL and PROGRESSIVE NATION.

 

LET’S CHANGE THE NARRATIVES, AS A FORCE FOR PEACE, BE THE AGENT OF SOCIETAL CHANGE; AS THE WATCHDOG OF OUR SOCIETY, OUR OWN COUNTRY!!!

 

—BLAISE UDUNZE

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BIG STORY

Looting Spree: Why I Stored Oyo Central Constituency Project Items In My House —- Senator Folarin

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A Nigerian senator has explained that some of the items stolen from his house were bought with public funds by a government agency which handed it over to him for distribution.

Teslim Folarin, who represents Oyo Central in the Senate, said he had just ‘formally taken receipt’ of the items from the agency, which he did not name.

“For the sake of clarification, I have just formally taken receipt of the empowerment materials from a federal agency coordinating constituency projects for federal lawmakers,” the lawmaker said in his reaction to the looting of the property which he said included hundreds of generators, motorcycles and deep freezers.

Mr Folarin’s admittance brings to fore the discussion around constituency projects which many Nigerians including an anti-corruption agency, ICPC, believe is sometimes used for fraud.

Lawmakers insert the constituency projects in a federal budget proposed by the Nigerian president. They also ensure the projects are inserted in the budgets of cooperating federal agencies. Often times, the lawmakers are also believed to nominate contractors who execute these projects.

The looting of Mr Folarin’s house is among several others across the country where hoodlums have taken advantage of the #EndSARS protest for police reform, to invade the private and public property. Similar incidents have occurred in Lagos, Osun, Kwara, Adamawa, Plateau and other states.

In his statement on Sunday, Mr Folarin, who chairs the senate committee on local content, said those who invaded his house were not #EndSARS protesters but ‘coordinated hoodlums.’

The senator, in a statement signed by his special adviser on media and publicity, Yekeen Olaniyi, described the attack as “evil, barbaric and unfortunate.”

He commended the security agencies for their prompt response to the incident.

He added that he was surprised that some people are using #EndSARS protests to loot people’s property.

“The perpetrators of the invasion and looting were not #EndSARS protesters but coordinated hoodlums. They even broke down doors to rooms in the house to steal valuable assets. It was a pure daylight robbery.

“The actions of the hoodlums are condemnable and it is very disheartening that some bad elements in our society are hiding under the guise of #EndSARS protests to loot and disrupt the peaceful atmosphere in Nigeria.

“I thank God we did not record any fatality, despite the violent invasion of my Oluyole house, looted materials and vandalisation therein.”

The lawmaker then explained the source of the looted materials.

“For the sake of clarification, I have just formally taken receipt of the empowerment materials from a federal agency coordinating constituency projects for federal lawmakers. Also, I used my personal money to procure additional materials. I took stock of the materials ahead of a mega empowerment programme scheduled to hold in November 2020.

“Apart from the mega empowerment programme, I plan to commission projects spread across Oyo Central Senatorial District. Looted materials included over 350 motorcycles, 400 deep freezers, 350 generators, grinding machines, sewing machines, hairdressing and barbing salon materials, vulcanising machines and many more.

“As a leader and people’s representative, I have never and will never take our people for granted. Let it be noted that at the peak of COVID-19 pandemic, I was the first political officer holder in Oyo State to support war against the deadly novel virus. On four occasions and on personal expenses, I did not only sponsor enlightenment programmes but also distributed palliatives to my constituents in Oyo Central Senatorial District.

“In fact, I extended my widow’s mite to thousands of our vulnerable citizens in Oyo South Senatorial district. Some weeks ago, I reached out to a few private school teachers who were affected by economic hardships, occasioned by the pandemic.

“I sincerely commend the civil and professional conducts of security personnel drafted to my house. They were tactical in their operations as no harm was done to the few people that were arrested with looted materials.

“For whatever that happened, I shall not be discouraged to continue to give excellent service delivery to the people of my district, Oyo State and Nigeria at large.

“I solemnly appreciate the support and sympathies of media houses, prominent Nigerians in Oyo State and across Nigeria, traditional rulers, religious leaders, groups and chieftains of our great party, the All Progressives Congress.”

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