Federal lawmakers from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the House of Representatives have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately unlock the national food reserve agency and distribute items to Nigerians across the 774 local government areas.
This, they said, will curb the spate of hunger in the land amid the lockdown order to halt the spread of Coronavirus pandemic in the country.
In a statement issued by the parliamentarians under the umbrella name, “PDP House of Reps Caucus”, yesterday, signed by their leader, Hon. Kingsley Chinda (Rivers State, PDP) and made available to newsmen in Abuja, the members said that available records indicated that compliance to total lockdown has not always been 100 per cent successful if the food question was not addressed.
While commending Buhari for the directive during his state broadcast last Sunday, the caucus, in the statement titled, “COVID-19 Pandemic: A Call for Further and Decentralized Action”, also asked the National Assembly to immediately enact a law for national food prices control.
The caucus said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly taken our country on the emergency course, unexpected and unanticipated at the beginning of the year that strategic legal, policy and legislative responses have dovetailed into measures directed at curtailing or halting the pandemic.
“As members of the PDP Caucus of the House of Representatives, we have consistently called, and we still continue to call, for measured responses that take the poor economic conditions of Nigerians, the rights of citizens, the scaling up of the medicare framework, into account in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While many governors have stepped away from what Prof Wole Soyinka rightly described this week as an attempt to halt the spread of the pandemic virus by constitutional piracy, we note that the absence of a structured federal response, based on the dictates of the law, may have led them to ramp up measures outside the remit of their constitutional powers.
“The rule of law has now prevailed, and it is in this light we welcome some of the measures outlined in the President’s belated broadcast and in the Regulation (COVID-19 Regulation 2020) made pursuant to Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Quarantine Act; though the presidential broadcast and Regulation took a long time coming. Well, better late than never. While we find the measures largely satisfying, it is our considered view that the palliative measures outlined in the presidential broadcast and regulation are not far-reaching enough, while some are completely inapplicable.
“Experiences through history have shown that citizens’ rights to movement are often heavily implicated when measures directed at halting the spread of contagious diseases and restoring public safety do not address the food question behind the curtains, worsening food security conditions.
“During the Ebola outbreak a few years ago, citizens of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone openly defied the restrictions that were imposed on movement to limit the transmission of the disease, after staying indoors for a few days in hunger. We must learn quickly from these experiences by ensuring that immediate measures on food security are ramped up.
“One way of doing this is to open up our national food and grain reserves across the country and distribute food to the poorest of the poor in our country at the Local government level. The President should as a matter of utmost urgency issue an Executive Order, pursuant to his powers preserved by Section 5 of the Constitution 1999, directing the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, National Food Reserve Agency and National Emergency Management Authority to release and manage the distribution of food in our national reserves.
“The Executive Order must set out clear consequences for breach, particularly as they relate to public officials who seize on the times to make brisk businesses and gains from the miseries of the people.
“Other measures such as food prices control should be ramped up; though specific, targeted and temporary legislation on food prices control will be needed for enforcement. This is where the National Assembly comes in – by establishing a framework of teleconferencing and social media communication, where the current lockdown and the medical advisories that bar public gatherings make it impossible for the reconvening of the National Assembly, to deliberate and pass such bills, as the Food Prices Control, COVID-19 Containment, Emergency and Disaster Management, into law.”
Also commending the Speaker of the House, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila and the House for the timely passage of an emergency bill to provide palliatives and the donation of members’ of March and April, 2020 salaries to fight the disease, the opposition lawmakers, however, asked that their deductions be transferred directly to their constituencies, saying they had no confidence in the sharing formula of the government.
Money We’re Spending On Cancer Hospital Justified -Wike
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has declared that the money his administration is spending on the Dr. Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Centre in the state is not a misplaced priority.
The governor made the assertion, yesterday, when he visited the project site at Rumuokuta in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, to inspect the progress of work done already.
Wike said that no amount of money spent in putting in place facilities that will secure the health of all residents in the state will be considered a waste.
“I’m very happy that the money we have spent here is not a misplaced priority. The healthcare of our people is important to us.
“It will save the time people travel overseas for cancer treatment. I think it will be something every Nigerians will be happy with. Here will be like a tourist centre. It has helipad, and doctors’ quarters. In case of emergency, they will fly in helicopter to this place and doctors who stay here will attend to them.”
The governor explained that the State government decided to build doctors’ quarters within the precincts of the Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Centre so that no doctor will claim he is unable to attend to patients timely, particularly in emergency situations, because of distance of where he stays to the hospital.
The governor expressed satisfaction with the pace of work done in view of the gigantic nature of the project and the difficult topography that requires massive piling.
“We have confidence in Julius Berger and having come here today, I think they are on schedule. We are happy with the level of work.
“It’s not a job you must rush. They are taking their time to make sure they give the citizens of the state the best and to Nigerians in general.
“You knows it is a specialist hospital, the first of its kind in this country. We are quite comfortable and confident that by end of July 2022, they would have handed over this very important project to the State.”
The Regional Manager of Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, Juergen Fischer, said they are conscious of the promise they have made to the governor to deliver the project as agreed.
Already, he noted, the milestone achieved has surpassed what was initially expected because they have done ground piling and concluded the critical baseline underground structural work done.
“You can be sure that by the end of July as we promised his excellency, we will deliver this hospital. We are a little bit ahead of schedule even in the rainy season.”
US Lawmakers Stop $875m Defence Equipment Sale To Nigeria
The United States lawmakers are holding down a proposed sale of attack helicopters to Nigeria amid mounting concerns about President Muhammadu Buhari government’s human rights record as it grapples with multiple security crises.
US lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have reportedly delayed clearing a proposed sale of 12 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters and accompanying defence systems to the Nigerian military.
The deal is worth $875million, according to US officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter.
In addition to the helicopters, the proposed sale includes 28 helicopter engines produced by GE Aviation, 14 military-grade aircraft navigation systems made by Honeywell, and 2,000 advanced precision kill weapon systems—laser-guided rocket munitions, according to information sent by the State Department to Congress and reviewed by ‘Foreign Policy’ magazine.
A report by ‘Foreign Policy’, last Tuesday, said the behind-the-scenes controversy over the proposed arms sale illustrates a broader debate among Washington policymakers over how to balance national security with human rights objectives.
The hold on the sale also showcases how powerful US lawmakers want to push President Joseph Biden administration to rethink US relations with Nigeria amid overarching concerns that Buhari is drifting toward authoritarianism as his government is besieged by multiple security challenges, including the Boko Haram insurgency.
But Western governments and international human rights organisations have ramped up their criticisms of the Buhari regime, particularly in the wake of its ban on Twitter, systemic corruption issues, and the Nigerian military’s role in deadly crackdowns on #EndSARS protesters, last October.
The Chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, called for a “fundamental rethink of the framework of our overall engagement” with Nigeria during a Senate hearing with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken in June.
Both Menendez and Sen. Jim Risch, a top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have placed a hold on the proposed arms sale, according to multiple US officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter, who spoke to ‘Foreign Policy’ on condition of anonymity.
The details on the proposed sale were first sent by the US State Department to Congress in January before then-former Vice President Joe Biden was inaugurated as president, according to officials familiar with the matter.
Nigeria has just received six out of the 12 Tucano jet fighters purchased from the US Government.
Some experts said the United States should hit the pause button on major defence sales until it makes a broader assessment of the extent to which corruption and mismanagement hobble the Nigerian military, and whether the military is doing enough to minimize civilian casualties in its campaign against Boko Haram and other violent insurrectionists.
Administration officials say they are tired of regular efforts by Capitol Hill to review arms sales to some countries.
“There doesn’t have to be a reason why we don’t provide weapons or equipment to the Nigerian military,” the Director of the Africa Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank, Judd Devermont, said.
“But it has to be done with an assessment of how it will actually, one, change the direction of conflict in Nigeria, and, two, that they will use it consistent with our laws. In both cases, it’s either a question mark or a fail.
“There is a culture of impunity that exists around abuses by the military,” Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, Anietie Ewang, said.
Ewang cited the Nigerian military’s killing of unarmed protesters during the massive #EndSARS demonstrations against police corruption and brutality last year as well as cases documented by human rights organizations of abuses in the military’s campaign against Boko Haram.
“I’m sure it’s a difficult situation. There are so many conflicts springing up across the country now,” Ewang said.
“The authorities, I presume, are trying to do the best they can to save lives and properties. But this must be done in accordance with human rights standards. You can’t throw one out just to be able to achieve the other.”
Nigerians Waiting To Elect PDP In 2023, Atiku Claims
The former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar says Nigerians are waiting eagerly for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to take over power at the federal level in 2023.
Speaking to journalists at the Rivers State Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday, Atiku said his meeting with the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike was fruitful.
Atiku explained that party affairs brought him to Port Harcourt, and he had spent the time reconciling touching issues with the governor.
According to him, the issues bother on how to ensure unity and stability in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), that are critical for the party in clinching electoral victory in 2003.
“Well, I came here to reconcile with the governor on party affairs and how we can ensure that there is unity and stability in the party, so, that we can take over government in 2023. I believe that Nigerians can’t wait for 2023 to come, so that PDP will return.”
Speaking on the current insecurity challenges that have overwhelmed the capability of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government, Atiku described the prevailing situation in the country as bad.
He urged Nigerians to wait for the appropriate time when PDP shall unveil its policies on how it wants to address the issue of insecurity across the country.
“I have never seen it (insecurity) this bad. I am 70 years plus, I have never seen it this bad in terms of security challenges, in terms of economy, in terms of unemployment. This is the worst.
“Why can’t you give us time? We will come up with our policies. We will present them to Nigerians when the time comes.
“We have done that before. Under PDP, we recorded the highest economic growth, the best foreign reserves, we reduced unemployment. You know that we can do it”.
The former vice president also acknowledged the tremendous leadership success recorded by Wike, who he described as a topmost governor among his peers in the party.
“I think he (Wike) is the topmost governor we have in the party. There is no doubt about that in terms of projects, youth empowerment and employment; in terms of security. Yes, we have security challenges all over the country.”
He further commended the governor for his outstanding leadership and sterling performance in office.
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