COVID-19: Gbajabiamila demands all-inclusive relief package for Nigerians

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila has emphasised the need for an all-inclusive relief package for Nigerians by government, arising from the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

Gbajabiamila said one of the most effective means of alleviating the financial burden of the stay-at-home order to prevent the spread of the virus is for the government to give a 100 per cent waiver on the electricity consumed by every household in the country.

The Speaker said this in Abuja on Wednesday during a meeting between the leadership of the National Assembly and the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of State on Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emiefiele, the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari and others, for an update on the COVID-19 interventions.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, the Speaker, however, noted that without the cooperation and collaboration between the Executive and the Legislature, such laudable idea may be impossible to achieve.

In his opening remarks at the meeting, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said the meeting was critical so that the National Assembly would be adequately informed about the various proposed interventions, for it to be able to promote and support them with constitutional backing when the need arises.

While requesting the Minister of Petroleum Resources to update the leadership on the state of the nation’s crude oil, Lawan said the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria must, as a matter of necessity, streamline their stimulus packages in consonance with the national budget in order to avoid duplication of efforts.

In his remarks, Rep. Gbajabiamila restated the need for collaboration between the two arms of government for the benefit of Nigerians during these trying times.

He said: “We are indeed in an exciting time in Nigeria, and it is how we deal with and confront the problem that would determine how we end up.

“So, I’m waiting with bated breath and I’m anticipating the various packages and stimuli and how we intend to, as a government, deal with the times we find ourselves in.

“I look forward to listening to what is on ground, and I’m even looking forward to more input from the National Assembly when it is time for us to make an input.

“Because as it is often said, two heads are better than one, and we have one government. The National Assembly will not act unilaterally neither will the executive. We will work together for the best outcomes for the people whom we serve.”

The Speaker noted that the entirety of Nigerians should be the focus of whatever stimulus package and actions for the aftermath of the crisis period, which he said should be treated with every sense of purpose.

According to him, a stimulus package that takes care of a large part of the populace should be at the front burner of government’s intervention programmes at this time.

He said: “I’m looking forward to a robust package, that will include succour to the Nigerian people, that is the issue of electricity. Just for two months.

“I had this argument with somebody the other day and he failed to see something until I pointed it out to him that if an average man, and for argument sake, pays N10,000 for electricity in a month, and you tell him that government will subsidize your electricity 100%, that we have the guarantees and undertakings by the DisCos and GenCos that your electricity supply will not flicker for a moment for two months.

“Do you know what you’ve done invariably? You’ve loosened that N10,000, you freed up that N10,000 for him to do other things with.

“In other words, the government has given him N10,000, which we all know what people are asking for right now. By saving him the N10,000 on his electricity bill, the government has given him N10,000.

“Unfortunately, we have to do it by way of comparison, we know what Ghana, next door has just done.

“I’m sure it’s in your (Executive) package and that’s why I said I’m excited and if that is the only contribution that the National Assembly has to make in terms of the stimulus, I think we should consider it.

“And that is why it is not a unilateral decision of either the executive or the legislature. It has to be a symbiotic relationship, we work together for the best outcome for the Nigerian people.

“There’s a lot more ground to cover and if we work together we will be able to cover as much ground as we possibly can”.

In her response, the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed informed the leadership that the Ministry is set to present a revised 2020 national budget as well as the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF)/ Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).

“As we move to adjust the Budget and implement the N500b stimulus package. The President has set up a committee chaired by the Vice President which will be meeting today at 2 pm.

“The feedback we get from that meeting would be conveyed to the relevant bodies as we design the various programs which will include the upgrade of healthcare facilities, support to States, Public Works and other interventions that we are working on at this time”, she said.

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