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Published On: Wed, Feb 5th, 2020

Coronavirus: Drama as Reps reject motion to evacuate Nigerians from China

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• Disease will soon be thing of the past, says Envoy

By Christiana Ekpa

There was drama on the floor of the House of Representatives, yesterday, over a motion brought by its spokesman, Rep. Benjamin Kalu (APC, Abia), urging the Federal Government to evacuate stranded Nigerians in China, as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. The motion was rejected outright by majority votes.
The House went into rowdiness the moment the motion was introduced with many members heard murmuring to themselves in palpable disapproval.
The motion was sponsored by the spokesman in collaboration with the Deputy Majority Leader, Rep. Peter Akpatason (APC, Edo), the Minority Leader, Rep. Ndudi Elumelu (PDP, Delta), and several others.
Noticing the lawmakers disapproval, the Speaker , Femi Gbajabiamila intervened said: “I can understand why you are murmuring but the body of the motion already takes care of your worries. I had a little glance of the motion.”
When the Speaker put a question for members’ to vote on whether the matter was urgent and important enough for the House to take immediately, majority of the lawmakers shouted “nay” with thunderous voices.
The Speaker after few minutes consultation with Kalu and some other sponsors of the motion, asked him to again clearly cite the title of the motion for members’ understanding, a request to which Kalu responded saying it was on the “urgent need to quarantine and evacuate stranded Nigerians in China”. This again elicited another round of murmuring and laughter.
Speaker Gbajabiamila again, waded in by explaining that “perhaps what Honourable Ben (Kalu) wanted to say is ‘evacuate and quarantine’, adding; “you have managed to confuse the mover of the motion.”
When he asked Akpatason to second the motion as one of the promoters, the lawmaker rather stated that “based on leadership consultation and what appeared to be a serious misunderstanding of the motion, we ask for the leave of the House to step it down.”
Still undaunted, the Speaker said “nobody wants to bring them (the stranded Nigerians) back to infect people here, so let’s hear the motion first, and the prayers. If we don’t like it, we can kill it at that point”, and subsequently asked Elumelu; another promoter to second it, but he later declined, claiming that his microphone had malfunctioned.
When the motion was finally seconded by Hon. Tajudeen Yusuf, majority of members still voted in the negative.
However, shortly after the motion was rejected, a lawmaker, Rep. Uchechukwu Nnam-Obi (PDP, Rivers moved a point of Order of privilege, demanding that that the House revisits the motion instead of dissipating energy on the Visa restrictions placed on Nigerians by the American government.
Nnam-Obi moved pursuant to Oder 6 sub rule 3 of the House standing Orders, saying that “Mr. Speaker I rise to move that instead of this House of the Nigerian people to dissipate energy debating the right and wrong of Visa restrictions, we should reconsider Hon. Kalu’s motion which in my opinion is more important because it is about life and death of our brothers and sisters in China”.
Upon his protest, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila said he had noted his point of order, just as he directed that debate on the Visa restrictions motion continued.
Meanwhile, the Ambassador of China to Nigeria, Dr Zhou Pinjiang has said that his country is not losing sleep over the outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus saying normal life goes on as usual.
He told newsmen at an interactive forum in Abuja yesterday that the Coronavirus, just as other epidemic diseases like Ebola and Lassa fever, will soon be a thing of the past, going by the sustained containment efforts by Chinese authorities.
He said his advice to all, especially to Nigerians is to continue to live a normal life as usual while taking precautionary measures, and to not allow the outbreak of the disease to undermine their social harmony.
“We are confident a cure will be found soon and the disease will be a thing of the past,” the Ambassador said.
He said that China cherishes its cooperation with Nigeria which he believes is mutually beneficial to both countries.
He also disclosed that trade volume between Nigeria and China as at 2019 was in excess of $19.2billion, adding that it is bound to grow in the coming years. Exports from Nigeria to China and vice versa have also been increasing, he said.
He said his priority in the coming years is to see increase in goods and services made in Nigeria of China, suggesting a boost in the activities of Chinese companies producing in Nigeria.

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