On Wednesday, Senate President Ahmad Lawan ordered the Ministries of Finance and Health to immediately release the N620million already set aside by the federal government to allow the NCDC to establish what is needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Lawan assumed responsibility when he led the leadership of the upper chamber in the immediate assessment of the Isolation Center at Abuja University Hospital, Gwagwalada, Abuja.
He described the temporary isolation center for Coronavirus victims (COVID-19) in Abuja as ill-equipped for its intended purpose.
This is true even when staff at the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) regret that the Federal Government has not yet released funds from the N620million to combat the disease.
They said they needed to borrow money to buy beds, foam, air conditioners and other critical medical equipment for the temporary isolation center in Abuja due to a lack of funds.
Lawan promised that the Senate would guarantee the release of the money.
He also asked the NCDC to build permanent isolation centers in the country’s other five geopolitical zones.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Lawan said: “First of all, let me say that representatives of the Federal Ministry of Health, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and the management of University of Abuja Hospital are excited and appearing determined to fulfill its mandate and obligations.
“But from our inspection here, the temporary isolation center is not really in a good condition. It does not seem ready to receive any patient and I believe that this is something that we need to correct between today and tomorrow.
“We are in an emergency, even if we don’t have infected people yet, we shouldn’t just rest on the oars.
“We have to do everything and anything possible to fix this temporary isolation center to be prepared and ready to receive anyone who is sick.
“We are really sad that the N620million, which should be launched on the NCDC, to fix everything here, and not a kobo, has been launched.
“We are going to talk to the Minister of Finance and all the other authorities who have something to do with this to release that money between today and tomorrow later.
“We are in a situation that no one should think they want. Everyone should be at the top of their game.
“There is no way that Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, with a population of 200 million, still in the Federal Capital and in the neighboring states of North Central; you don’t have a room to which you can call an isolation center where, unfortunately, someone who falls into this crisis will be taken. This is not acceptable.
“So, let’s make sure the money is released, we’re not going to put much pressure. That is what they must do and must do.
“I also believe that we should have a permanent replication of the site, we could complete this and then have five others in the rest of the country’s geopolitical areas.
“We are going to spend money for our people, we are wasting money on some things that are less important. It is about the health and life of the people of this country and therefore no investment is too much.
“So, we must be prepared at all time. We had Ebola, SARS, now we have Coronavirus, we don’t know what else is coming, but we must be prepared and ready for any eventuality, and no investment is too much.
“The contractor said that by the end of this month this should be ready, we pray that it will be faster, but by the end of tomorrow this temporary location should be ready.
“There is no generator, electricity, nothing. Two or three air conditioners were brought in this morning, perhaps because yesterday we said we were coming here. This is not acceptable.
“As leaders have taken on responsibilities, we have to do what is right. This is a misfortune. Therefore, the Ministry of Finance must release the N620 million between today and tomorrow. ”
The Senate President has promised that the relevant Senate commissions will follow up on the issue to ensure that work at the isolation center is completed.
“The Senate Health Committee will be back tomorrow (Thursday), we want this temporary isolation center to be repaired.
“We need to commit, we need to be very serious, and that is the essence of our oversight, but, as it is very important, we decided that the Senate leadership should lead that oversight,” said Lawan.