Full address by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, as Nigeria battles the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
1. We gather here today in uncertain times for our country and indeed for the whole of humanity. We are affronted by a new and deadly disease that threatens to forever alter the nature of our lives. We do not know how this virus and the disease it delivers have come to be. We do not yet have a cure for this disease or a vaccine to protect against the virus. What we do know is that over the last six months, hundreds of thousands of people have been infected all over the world, thousands have died, and the world economy is experiencing a contraction, unlike anything we have seen in recent history.
2. It now falls to us, the government of the people to act quickly and decisively to forestall the worst consequences of a nightmare that has been made real. Before now, all the efforts of the government have been focused on preventing an outbreak in the country by enforcing a robust screening regime at our ports of entry. It is now clear that the time has come for us to develop and implement a more robust strategy, one that prepares us for the possibility of a significant outbreak with all the calamity that entails. We are glad that the government is now doing exactly this.
3. We have never experienced a time like this. And we’re not alone. From the United States and North America to Europe and Asia, all the countries of the world are reacting to the challenge of the moment by adopting aggressive approaches to managing the outbreak of the disease and radical interventions to protect their people from the additional ravages of a global economy that no longer adheres to the old expectations that have underpinned our planning, our projections, and expectations. We owe it to our people to be just as aggressive and just as radical if doing so is what it will take to save our nation and prevent the tragedies of death, destitution, and devastation that threaten us all.
4. The House of Representatives has now adjourned for fourteen days in the first instance. This is not a holiday, it is an act of necessity in furtherance of the social distancing and isolation guidelines that have proven to be effective in preventing secondary transmission of the Covid – 19 disease. The leadership of the House will continue to observe developments and respond as the circumstances demand. If it becomes necessary, we may reconvene to act on emergency legislation and possible amendment of the Appropriation Act, 2020.
5. The Clerk of the National Assembly will maintain essential personnel to ensure full compliance with sanitation, health and safety requirements in the National Assembly.
6. No member of the House of Representatives may travel out of the country during this time. All activities of the House of Representatives are suspended for the duration, whether those activities are scheduled to occur within the National Assembly or outside of it. Members are enjoined to show faithful leadership by restricting all nonessential movements and observing self-isolation and social distancing according to the guidelines of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)
7. Before we adjourned, the House today has mandated the Federal Government to establish emergency care and isolation centres in every state of the federation. These centres will allow for as many of our people who present symptoms of this disease to be tested, treated and managed in a conducive atmosphere to prevent further transmission and ensure that those already infected have a fighting chance at survival and recovery and reunion with those who love them and miss them and pray for them.
8. The House has further directed that the Federal Ministry of Health take urgent action to establish an emergency corps of medical professionals who will be deployed to manage these Adhoc emergency care centres across the country as the need arises. We do not make this directive lightly as we have already seen in other parts of the world, the high price that doctors and nurses have paid since the emergence of this new disease. However, this is a time that calls for service to a purpose greater than self and for reaching up to the highest ideals of which we are capable.
9. In Ogun State, the brilliant and inspired intervention by Dr Amarachi Karen Allison who identified the index case and took quick action prevented the secondary transmission of this disease and bought us time. Her actions saved lives. She has honoured herself, her profession and her family and we are eternally grateful. When all of this is over, this House shall not forget and we will make sure too that our nation does not forget.
10. For all those doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who will answer the call of duty in these difficult times, the leadership of the House of Representatives and indeed the entire House stand as one to assure you that we will ensure that you are provided with the tools you need to protect yourselves and to practice effectively. You will receive all that is your due, you will forever have the thanks of a grateful nation and you too will never be forgotten.
11. The House has also today passed emergency legislation which we have titled the Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill 2020 to provide a new regime of corporate tax rebates to encourage companies in the country to maintain their payroll status for the immediate term. This, we hope will prevent large scale job losses in an already fragile economy and allow our people to carry on their lives as best as possible in the event of a large scale outbreak of the sort we have witnessed in other parts of the world.
12. The Bill also grants a six-month deferral for payments on mortgages obtained by individual contributors to the National Housing Fund (NHF). It also suspends all import duties on medicines, medical equipment and other essentials required to help in the treatment and management of Covid – 19 disease. These are all temporary measures that we hope will help our country to more effectively manage this present crisis and emerge from it with the possibility of rebirth and renewal.
13. However fleeting or enduring these present challenges may persist, it is already certain that our world has changed and after this moment we will have to answer to many hard questions and make difficult choices. For now, we concern ourselves only with the imperatives of survival, the survival
of our country and our fragile world. Let every citizen be aware that it may yet be required of us that we take further audacious action and impose other drastic measures to aid in the control and eradication of Covid – 19 from our shores. Let us all be prepared to do that which is required of us at the appropriate time.
14. These measures we have taken and those already being implemented by the executive arm, will not suffice. We need also that you the individual act always with consideration for the greater good. Avoid the dissemination of unsubstantiated rumours, do not contribute to the propagation of media content that serves no purpose except to create panic. Engage in good faith with constituted authority in your locations, maintain sanitary hygiene practice and follow the instructions of government agencies.
15. The House commends the actions of Mr President, State Governors and all others in public and private life who have shown extraordinary leadership during these trying times. We ask that you continue to keep the faith, acting only in consideration of the best interests of the Nigerian people.
16. If we set our minds right, embrace each other in love and brotherhood we will come through these troubling times. We will survive, we will recover and then we will thrive, one nation under God, free, peaceful and prosperous. Thank you all for being here.
17. God bless you all, and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.