The Senate on Thursday urged the Federal Government to immediately devise ways of providing relief for poor Nigerians whose daily livelihood will be affected as a result of the restriction on movement due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan made the appeal following a meeting between the leadership of the National Assembly and some Ministers and Heads of Government Agencies on Wednesday in Abuja.
According to the Senate President, besides mulling a total lockdown of business activities in the country, a plan must be devised by the Federal Government through the release of funds specifically 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.
Lawan, according to a statement by his Special Assistant (Press) Ezrel Tabiowo, in Abuja, 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.
“As a government, we must find our own money to fund something for our people, because the United States of America that is talked about or the British Parliament is because this involves public funds.
“I’m not seeing anything at the moment targeted at providing some relief. If we lock up Nigeria today, then we will wake-up trouble, because majority of our citizens go to market every day before they can get something to eat.
“So, you lock them up in their houses with a threat of disease and without food. We need to have something, a plan of some sorts, in addition to making sure we don’t lock up the farmers market for example, where people can easily go and buy something, and of course pharmacies.
“We need to have some kind of supplies to people, I don’t know how we can achieve this, but we have to be ingenious.
“This is a time to think deep and wide, to provide for our people, in order for us at least to deal with this challenge at the moment.”
The Senate President, in addition, urged the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to establish more testing and isolation centres as soon as more funds are released to it by the Federal Government.
He added that the Senate Committees on Appropriation, Finance and National Planning will oversight the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control on the strict application of the N6.5 billion to be released for the fight against the Coronavirus 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 should the need arise, to work on the planned review of the 2020 budget before the legislature reconvenes on April 7, 2020.