Lawmaker urges Reps to end COVID-19 masking rule

A member of the House of Representatives, Olufemi Adebanjo, on Thursday, protested against the wearing of face masks in the chamber, saying it has adverse health implications.

According to Adebanjo, the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

The lawmaker, who is representing Alimosho Federal Constituency in Lagos State, raised a point of order concerning privilege to say that members no longer obey the COVID-19 protocols and the House should, therefore, suspend wearing of masks in the chamber.

Adebanjo said, “I want to inform the National Assembly, especially the House of Representatives, concerning the masking of our faces coming into the chamber. For the past two months, I have not heard of any case of COVID in Nigeria or abroad.

“Mr Speaker, the masking has been a very painful one and the earlier the better we relaxed the rule that compulsorily asks honourable members to wear a mask. If you look around, you can see how many people are using the mask.

“It affects our respiratory system and our lungs. So, there is no more COVID in Nigeria, there is no more COVID abroad. I would prefer we relaxed the rule, Mr Speaker.”

The Deputy Speaker of the House, Ahmed Wase, who presided over the session, stated that the lawmakers were bound to obey the safety protocols imposed by the Federal Government, especially through the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control established by an Act promulgated by the National Assembly.

Wase said, “I want to advise that as legislators, we are supposed to be compliant with the rules set for the country, the Constitution and the Acts. It is by the leave of the House and the grace of God that we have the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and they are responsible for regulating our affairs and conduct.

“So, it is not for the Speaker to rule on their duty that has been prescribed duly by an Act of the National Assembly. I want to beg that we should continue to comply with the regulations set for our country and the world. We note your concern. Your point of order is noted.”

The Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, had announced in October that civil servants without proof of vaccination and negative PCR tests would not be allowed to access government buildings from December 1, 2021.

The order had also been enforced especially at the Federal Secretariat, forcing civil servants to besiege the ad hoc vaccination centres established around the vicinity.

On December 7, 2021, that the management of the National Assembly said the order by the Federal Government that its workers must be vaccinated to access their respective offices cannot be implemented at the National Assembly complex.

The Director of Information, Mr Rawlings Agada, noted that restriction of access to the premises would cause chaos as workers are only a percentage of the population of the National Assembly “community.”

This is just as safety protocols have been relaxed at the National Assembly.

It was observed that workers have continued to gain unhindered access to the premises.

It was also observed that despite the outbreak of Omicron, a deadlier variant of COVID-19, the lawmakers have also shunned safety protocols.

For instance, before the National Assembly went on its annual two-month recess in July, mask-wearing was made compulsory for persons entering the premises, especially the chambers, committee rooms and offices.

Also, automatic hand sanitiser dispensers were mounted at strategic locations around the building.

There were also tens of hand sanitisers spread around the seats in the Senate and House of Representatives chambers while lawmakers were spaced with vacant seats to allow social distancing.

Some of these protocols have been shunned since the parliament resumed in September and especially during the budget defence sessions with ministries, departments and agencies on the 2022 Appropriation Bill.

A body sanitiser, which was meant to spray persons as they walk into the White House section, through it, has been removed.

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