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Wednesday, 16 December 2015 00:00

Lassa Fever Outbreak: Senate Intervenes

As Nigeria recorded its 41st death out of the 93 reported Lassa fever cases over the weekend, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Tuesday asked the federal government, health agencies and non-governmental organisations to carry out holistic and aggressive sensitization in affected states, markets, restaurants, schools and other public places on preventive measures.

This was in response to a motion sponsored by Senator Lanre Tejuoso chairman, Senate Committee on Health as the Senate also condoled with the bereaved families and urged Nigerians to adhere to rules on personal hygiene as well as report cases of persistent high fever to the nearest health centre.

Senator Tejuoso in the lead debate noted that 20 lives had been lost in 2014 to this acute viral hemorrhagic fever caused by the Lassa virus which broke out in 1969 in the town of Lassa, in Borno State, Nigeria and nothing concrete had been done to impede any further outbreak of the disease, citing that health and corporate agencies in Nigeria, emphasize on awareness creation only after new cases appear.

Senator Tejuoso also expressed concern that if nothing urgent was presently done to curtail further outbreak and spread of the disease, it would escalate to alarming proportion that could lead to declaration of national emergency.

He also recommended the free distribution of rat poison, saying the level of poverty in the country would not allow the citizenry to purchase the substance, but the proposal failed.

Commending the Committee on Health, Senate President, Olubukola Saraki stated that it was important for the Federal Ministry of Health to come up with a sustainable strategy to curb the ongoing outbreak as well as work to ensure that such outbreaks of preventable diseases do not occur again at least in the nearest future.

Saraki asked the Federal Ministry of Health to provide adequate funds for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). “The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) should coordinate all responses to ensure compliance,” Saraki said, while also tasking the Senate Committee on Health to follow up the Senate resolutions on the matter through proper oversight functions.

Meanwhile the Senate also invited the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, to brief it over the outbreak of the disease that had thus been recorded in 10 states of the federation. It also observed a minute silence in honour of the deceased.

  • Calls for Public Enlightenment

Worried by the recent lassa fever outbreak that has claimed more than 40 lives across 12 states of the country, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Thursday called for corporate sponsorship of the enlightenment campaigns of the Ministry of Health.

This plea was put forth by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Lanre Tejuoso, while meeting with the Honourable Minister of Health and the leadership of the ministry, who were summoned two days ago by the Senate in a plenary session to brief the upper chamber of the recent outbreak and Government’s approach to curtailing the scourge

Observing how many corporate bodies (especially banks and telecommunication firms) usually took up paid advertisement spots on first pages (or other conspicuous spots) of major daily newspapers, Senator Tejuosho pleaded with various business bodies and corporate agencies to seize this opportunity to enlighten Nigerians about how to combat the lassa fever virus spread as corporate social responsibility.

In his presentation to the Senate Committee on health, the Honourable Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Folorunsho Adewole, described the current outbreak of the disease as a shameful one on the part of the Government because this was not the first time that such an outbreak had occurred but was only popular now because of the new Government administration.

The Minister who also showed that the current outbreak which began in August 2015 had so far resulted in 40 fatalities out of 441 cases across 12 States of the Federation and the FCT (17 of those deaths recorded in the village of Fuka, Niger State, because of some superstitious beliefs) noted that Nigeria actually had its worst lassa fever outbreak in 2012 (which saw 112 fatalities out of 1723 cases) and it was therefore worrisome that there had been no concrete proactive framework on ground to prevent further similar scenarios.

Professor Adewole proposed a multi- sectoral One Health framework that would require a synergy with other Federal Ministries such as the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment to prevent a future reoccurrence of the disease while also stating that the Ministry was currently, aggressively trying to revamp its primary health care system that would not only reduce pressure on the country’s Secondary and Tertiary Health institutions but would help to nip such cases in the bud. As for the Ministry’s response to the current outbreak, he said that a 4 pronged approach of prevention, surveillance, case management and control of transmission was already being implemented and that lassa fever is generally manageable until it leads to other complications such as end stage renal failure. He also said that although there was no vaccine for lassa fever, a candidate vaccine was currently undergoing clinical testing.

Reacting to his presentation, Senator Tejuoso told the Ministry that the Senate was in need of concrete action on the part of the Health Ministry and not just beautiful plans.

Another member of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Matthew Uroghide decried Nigeria’s lackadaisical attitude to the outbreak, reminding the Minister of how Nigeria reacted swiftly to the ebola epidemic in 2015 but seemed less active with the lassa fever outbreak and narrated how he watched the Chief Medical Director of the Irrua Specialist Hospital (one of the few emergency response centres) plead for funds on national television.

The Senate Committee also advocated for better funding and assistance of the country’s Centre for Disease Control.

  • Health not free in same institution

The Senate Committee on Health has today charged the management of the National Hospital Abuja that medical tourism in favour of Nigeria must start from the National Hospital for its strategic location and pride of place in the nation’s capital during its oversight visit. Addressing the management of the hospital, Senator, Dr. Lanre Tejuoso- Ogun central and Chairman of the Senate Committee on health stated that, “we decided to commence oversight; an impromptu one at that to see things for ourselves to enable our committee contribute meaningfully to the 2016 budget with appraisal of 2015 performance. We are here to know the problems, we are here as partners in progress because we want to take the health sector to new levels in sync with the policy and focus of this administration”.

Outlining the budget performance, the Chief Medical Director of the National Hospital Dr. J. A. F Momoh told the senate committee that the institution recorded 50% performance for the 2015 fiscal Year in terms of capital. Momoh narrated that the National Hospital is building a Cancer and Trauma Centre which received only N600 million in 2014. He lamented obsolescence equipment in the hospital which is as old as the hospital (16 years). He stated that the Hospital has about 300 specialized beds, 6 dialysis machines, burns centre, MRI laboratory, a helipad with planned expansion for cardiac/ surgery interventions and informed the committee, the role played by the National Hospital in emergency response and treatment of burns and accident victims of terrorism in Abuja and north east states recently.

The committee decried the spate of foreign exchange leakage due to medical tourism by Nigerians to India and other countries due to underdeveloped Medicare and urged the national hospital to enlighten the public on medical services and heights it has recorded to reverse the trend. The CMD informed the senate committee on its strides in in-vitro fertilization procedures at a minimal cost as obtained elsewhere.

Speaking on the income generation, the CMD disclosed the drug revolving fund from patients to the tune of a Hundred million naira monthly which facilitates payment to vendors/ contractors and services but added that the institutions is sensitive to the poor having written off the sum of N24 million debt for indigent patients last year.

The committee urged the management to embrace Public Private Partnership (PPP) to attain optimal service delivery and capacity citing examples of institutions like The University College Hospital Ibadan since government alone cannot facilitate funds to run the Hospital optimally.

The committee inspected facilities in the Hospital like the Cancer centre, MRI unit, Burns and trauma centre among others.


Monday, 27 April 2015 00:00

NILS Inducts Members and Senators-elect

  • Mark laments high turnover
  • Extols 2015 general elections
  • Senators-elect self agenda

The president of the senate and chairman of the National Assembly David Mark has lamented the high turnover of senators to the National Assembly and said it was almost as good as starting afresh as senators lost their seats considerably in the last general elections.

Mark made this known during the opening ceremony of the induction and training session for the members and senators-elect of the 8th National Assembly organized by the National Institute of legislative studies [NILS] holding at the International Conference Center, Abuja.

He said the turnover is too high with an average of 30% which impacts on deliberations. He urged the members –elect to live exemplary lives in their conduct. The senate president congratulated the independent National commission [INEC] and extolled Nigerians for not conforming to doomsday prophets who prophesied that Nigerian will disintegrate by 2015 as he urged the parliament to salvage the system from imminent collapse by being on the side of the people through the evolution of symbiotic relationship to deal with issues confronting the nation through proactive collaboration from all sectors.

He urged the legislators to make the citizens, centerpiece of the democratization process by initiating people oriented budget and reminded them of the need to promote what unites the nation instead of dwelling on our fault lines.

Meanwhile, a few senators-elect have spoken out on their personal and collective agenda in the 8th senate while scoring the out going senate.

For senator-elect Abudlazeez Nyako- Adamawa central, stemming insurgency, rehabilitation and reconstruction of Adamawa state, youth empowerment would mark his achievement in the 8th senate. Hear him; I want to come out strongly in two areas; one is against insurgency and the secondly, youth empowerment . Having a navy background puts me in good position.

Senator-elect Peter Nwaoboshi- Delta north, the interest of his Delta north senatorial District is upper most on his mind. He says: my aim is to make my people have an effective representation in the affairs of this country and to attract within the limits of my power and competence, project to the benefit of my people through effective representation. The voice of my people must be heard at the National level.’

Thursday, 16 April 2015 00:00

Senate Considers NABRO Bill


The Senate today has debated the Bill for an act to provide for the establishment of the Nigerian Army Institute of Technology and Environmental Studies (NAITES) and for matters connected there with 2015, standing in the name of Senator Kabiru Marafa.

Also, the Senate considered a Bill for an Act of Establishing an Independent National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) , which shall provide the National Assembly with Objectives, Timely and Non-partisan Analysis Needed for Economic & Budget Decisions and other related matters, 2015.

NABRO Bill seeks to provide Independent, unbiased and Non-partisan analysis of the National Budget estimates; Provide Independent unbiased analysis of the budget of the National Assembly and assist all the Committees of the National Assembly in developing their annual budgets; provide independent and Continuous review of the budget of the Federal Government including monitoring of existing and proposed program e and budgets; provide assistance to all Committees in both chambers of the National Assembly, Including- information with respect to budget and all bills relating to new budget heads information with respect to estimated future revenue and changing revenue condition aggregate of all current liabilities and existing financial commitments and any related information as committees may request.

  • Passes bill to eliminate violence in public life and prohibitions against rape.

The Nigerian Senate today has appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to temper justice with mercy regarding the recall of the Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa and subsequent suspension of the permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the mishandling of xenophobic attack incidences in South Africa.

Rising on rule 43 of the Senate, Senator Abdul Ningi (Bauchi Central), drew the attention of the Senate to its earlier resolution of Wednesday, April 22, 2015 titled “Rising incidence of xenophobic attacks in South Africa”, wherein the Senate recalled the high Commissioner and suspended the permanent Secretary over poor handling of diplomacy without recourse to Mr. President and called on the President to tamper justice with mercy on the matter.

This is just as the resurgence of killing spree on the plateau was heard on the floor of the Senate.

Rising on rule 43, Senator Victor Rampyal Lar- Plateau South draw the attention of the Senate to the killing of innocent people by armed military men on Saturday, 2nd May, 2015 in kadarko district, Wase local government area of Plateau State and urged the Senate to look into the matter with a view to identifying the perpetrators.

Subsequently, the Senate resumed constitution of a bill for an act to eliminate violence in private and public life, prohibit all forms of violence, against persons and to provide maximum protection and effective remedies for victims and punishment of offenders 2015 and passed it into law.

The Bill which defines rape as an offence punishable by law when a man or woman intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with any other part of another person with any other part of his /her body or anything else when the other person does not consent to the penetration or the consent is obtained by force or means of threat or intimidation of any kind or by fear of harm or by means of fraudulent representation as to the nature of the act or the use of any substance or addictive capable of taking away the will of such person or in the case of a married person by his or her spouse.

The bill stipulates that a person convicted of an offence by this law is liable to imprisonment for life except where the offender is less than 14 years of age, the offender shall be liable to a maximum 14 years imprisonment ; in all other cases to a minimum of 12 years imprisonment without an option of fine; and in case of rape by a group of persons, the offenders shall be liable jointly and severally to a minimum of 20 years imprisonment without an option of fine and where the act described by this law is committed by a group of persons, the offence shall be known as gang rape and on conviction the persons shall be liable jointly and severally to a minimum of 20 years imprisonment without any fine.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015 00:00

Senate Passes N4.4 Trillion Budget

  • Subsidy gets zero allocation.

The Nigerian Senate today finally passed a budget of N4.4trillion for the 2015 fiscal year after several months of consideration with no allocation for fuel subsidy in consonance with the version passed by the House of Representatives a few days ago.

The budget was passed with $53 as oil benchmark at 2.2782 million barrels per day (Mbpd) with an exchange rate of N190 per US dollar and 1.2 percent as deficit/ Gross Domestic product (GDP).

A breakdown of the budget indicates that the sum of N375,616,000,000 is for statutory transfer; N2, 607,132,491,708 is for recurrent expenditure; N953,620,000,000 is for local debt service out for domestic debt service while foreign debt retains N59.010.

This is as capital expenditure receives the sum of N556,995,465,449 with an aggregate expenditure of N4,493,363,957,158 with N21,030,000,000 approved for subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).

Moreover, fiscal deficit got an approved of N1, 075.3 trillion.

Sectoral breakdown shows that education with an approval of N392, 242,784,654 received the highest budgetary allocation followed by Defense with N338, 797,219,431 comprising Army, Air force and Navy and while the police got an allocation of N303, 822,224,611

Senate approved the sum of N13,965,664,092 for the Eight Federal Executive body out of which N5,293,800,054 shall be spent on National Population Commission; N493,656,088 for Code of Conduct Tribunal, N1,935,767,344 for Code of Conduct Bureau; N2,207,213,456 for Revenue Mobilization Allocation & Fiscal Commission and Federal Civil Service Commission N1,125,005,114 while Police Service Commission (PSC) got N740,477,185 as Federal Character Commission received N2,167,931,068.

The Health Sector got an allocation of N237,075,742,847; Youth Development, N69,423,427,479, Interior, N153,330,022,460;

National Security Adviser, N62,226,771,999; SGF, N48,389,942,264; Agriculture & Rural Development, N31,869,020,717; Petroleum Resource, N58,274,429,975; Communication Technology, N10,592,048,381; Trade and Investment, N10,941,859,480.

The approved budgetary figure however is higher than the Original budget by N134.5 billion.

  • Mark Opposes Senators’ resolve to override president’s veto
  • Resolves to obey Supreme Court Order
  • Requests Supreme Court for earlier hearing date

In what appears a u -turn, the Nigerian Senate today has dropped its move to override Mr. President’s veto on the 4th amendment of the Constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria by the 7th National Assembly through the gazzetting process of the Bill as it threatened to do today. This is as Senate leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba has said the Senate would challenge the ex parte injunction by the Supreme Court asking the litigants (Senate/Executive) to maintain status quo.

Rising from a two hour Executive session where the senate President, Senator David Mark prevailed on his

Colleagues to suspend earlier decision to gazette the Bills the Senate President said as law makers, it was incumbent on them to obey the ruling of the highest Court of the land. He said, “I think it is proper for me because of the importance of the issue, to make a very simple but straight forward unambiguous statement. We are law makers and we will not be law breakers. We are not just law makers, we are very senior law makers and this is the apex of law making in this country. Therefore, on the issue of the current Constitution review that is before the Supreme Court, we want to assure Nigerians that we will not break any law of this country”.

Mark further said “, we will take appropriate action that will ensure that Democracy survives but I will also want to warn that we should not be taken for granted by the executive but once more, let me assure Nigerians that as law makers, we will not be law breakers”.

The Senate leader, Ndoma – Egba while addressing the press, wondered why the National Assembly having followed and adhered to the stipulated Constitutution amendment procedure in arriving at the Bill, was not put on notice.

As planned yesterday, the Bill to adopt the gazette of the

4th Amendment Bill which by implication is the first legislative step to override the President’s veto.

President Goodluck Jonathan it is recalled, addressed both leaders of the two chambers of the National Assembly on APRIL 13, 2015,via a letter in which he cited the non-compliance with the constitutional provision of section 9, regarding four- fifth majority in both chambers in arriving at the changes or alteration as well as the Usurpations of Presidential Powers in signing a bill into law.

Jonathan also expressed reservation on the separation of the office of the minister Justice and Attorney General of the federation among others.

This development had generated executive legislative spat between both arms of Government before the Attorney general of the federation headed to the Supreme Court to quash and stagnate the process as the law makers vowed to override the President’s veto.

The Senate has requested the Supreme Court to grant an earlier date other than a June 2015 date to hear the suit by which time the life of the current National Assembly would have elapsed. This is to allow for legislative input by the current National Assembly.

  • Oil Gas Export Free Zone Passed
  • Asset Management Bill Passed

The bill for an act to amend the oil and gas export free zone authority act with a view to provide for the designation and establishment of oil and gas free zone in Nigeria has been passed into law.

This is just as the Bill for an act to amend the asset management corporation of Nigeria act, 2010 and for other related matters has also been passed into law.

In a resumed constitution having resolved into committee of the whole, the Senate approved clause 3 as recommended, 4 as amended, 5-10, deleted,12 as amended and 13 as recommended. The bill as amended shall act as one- stop shop for all government services for free zones and sub-zones, regulate activities and monitor the operations of free zones and sub-zones, enterprises as well as organization that provide services within and to the free zones and sub-zones; develop and monitor performance standards and indices relating to free zones and sub-zones and attract, facilitate and encourage the retention of investment leading to value addition, into free zones and sub-zones.

In passing the asset management corporation of Nigeria act 2010 (amendment) Bill 2015, the Senate approved clauses 1-36 as recommended.

The bill provides that subject to the provisions of the land use act and section 36 of the act, where the corporation acquires an eligible bank asset, such eligible bank assets shall become rested in the corporation and the corporation on shall exercise, all the rights and powers of the eligible financial institution from which the eligible bank asset was acquired in relation to the bank asset, the debtor concerned and any guarantor, surety or receiver, liquidator, examiner or any other person concerned and the eligible financial institution shall cease to have those rights.

The bill also provides in clause 5, that for the provisions of the limitation law of a state or the limitation Act of the Federal Capital Territory, with respect to any debt owed to the corporation by reason of its acquisition of an eligible bank asset, time shall begin to run, and the cause of action deemed to arise, from the date of the eligible bank asset and that where action has already been commenced by any eligible financial institution prior to acquisition of the eligible bank asset by the corporation, the corporation shall at any time after the acquisition of the eligible bank asset the subject of any such action be entitled to continue with the action in its name or a third party entitled to any judgment debt , but not any liability in respect of the claim or any associated counter claim or cross claim for which the assignor of the eligible bank asset shall be liable or discontinue any such pending action relating to the eligible bank asset instituted by the eligible financial institution prior to such acquisition; and such discontinued by the corporation shall be without prejudice to its right to commence or the cause to be commenced a new action in respect of the same subject matter s that discontinue. In amending section 48 of the Act it approved that for the avoidance of doubt, the power of a receiver acting in pursuance of the provision shall be exercisable over all the assets and entire undertaking of the debtor company not withstanding that only a part of the assets of debtor company was charged, mortgaged or pledged as security in relation of the eligible bank asset acquired by the corporation, provide that such exercise of power shall be without prejudice to the existing rights of secured creditors or third parties in such assets while a receiver under this section approved to manage the affairs of a debtor company or debtor entity, shall forth with upon the publication of the notice referred to in subsection (4) become entitled to take over the management of the affairs of the debtor company or debtor entity in the name, and on behalf of the debtor entity, for the benefit of the debtor company or debtor entity, the general body of creditors of the debtor company or debtor entity for the period specified in the said notice.

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