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COVID-19: Group urges Kwara Assembly to resume plenary

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A non-governmental organization, Brain Builders International, has urged the Kwara State House of Assembly to resume plenary for salient reasons.

The assembly postponed its resumption of plenary earlier scheduled for Tuesday, March 24, 2020 indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Clerk of the House, Hajia Halimat Jummai Kperogi, said the postponement was in line with the government’s strategies to avert incident of coronavirus pandemic, especially the closure of public institutions.

As of the time of filing this report, the state is number 16 on the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control’s (NCDC) chart with a total of 14 out of the 2170 cases of the pandemic recorded in Nigeria.

The Brain Builders International in a statement signed by its Executive Director, Olasupo Abideen Opeyemi, said it finds it necessary that that the state Assembly resumes plenary sessions like the National Assembly.

In the statement sent to POLITICS NIGERIA, the group stated that the world had no idea it would be standing on its toes months after a cluster of pneumonia cases from an unknown virus hit Wuhan, China.

It said: “Covid-19 has since spread to about 196 countries and territories in every continent and one international conveyance across the globe. With the ongoing efforts by different countries and medical experts to curtail the spread of the infection which is almost entirely driven by human-to-human transmission, Covid-19 accounts for over 3 million confirmed cases with more than 973,000 recoveries and 228,000 deaths globally.”

BBI however recommended that upon resumption, measures that keep individuals safe at this trying period should be complied with during plenary.

Such measures as well known, include social distancing, hand washing, use of face masks and hand sanitizers, among others.

According to the group, the resumption of legislative functions in the state would go a long way in supporting the government’s effort to limit the spread of the infection by deepening accountability and transparency and also protecting the socioeconomic and political rights of its citizens.

“However, the resumption of legislative duties in the state should it happen, would be coming at a time when the number of Covid-19 cases is taking an upward spiral, with threats to life and economic stability. 11 cases have since been confirmed in Kwara with 2 recovery cases and no death case as of May 1st,” it said.

The group further urged the legislative arm of the state to consider an E-legislation that provides for plenary sessions without physical meetings.

“It is imperative that the House considers operating on platforms that would ensure members of the Assembly work remotely in the event of cases like Covid-19 that would lead to an abrupt suspension of committee meetings, public hearings, among other legislative activities.

“The need to train legislators and other staff of the House of Assembly on a system that allows ease of working remotely cannot be overemphasised at a time like this, as it ensures time isn’t wasted with a high level of efficiency achieved,” it added.

Amongst other demands, it called for legislative scrutiny of executive actions on Covid-19.

“It is of need that the House mandates its committees to review all executive actions taken during the recess, especially as it concerns the distribution of palliatives to indigent Kwarans and other proactive measures of funding the management of the virus in the state,” it said.

Also, the group demanded an increased budgetary allocation for health, noting that the House can utilize its power of appropriation in increasing the budgetary allocation to the health sector while ensuring legislative oversights are also put in place.

It then requested the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI), saying it gives room for openness and transparency in government and also strengthens the democratic structure with the end results being creating values.

“This is why we are pleading with the current assembly to pass the bill, as we have information that the incumbent Governor has sent the bill to the current assembly,” the group said.

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