President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday met with the leadership of the National Assembly in the State House, Abuja to discuss raising a Supplementary Budget to fund COVID-19 vaccination and acquisition of more military equipment.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila revealed some of the details of the meeting to State House Correspondents.
Lawan told correspondents that both the Executive and the Legislature agreed that there should be a supplementary budget for the vaccination and security.
According to Senator Lawan, “it is one government where the legislature is working together and we have come to meet with Mr. President to discuss issues of serious national concern and one of those issues is the issue of supplementary budget.
“Today, I’m sure in Nigeria, there are no more grave issues, than COVID-19 and security situation in the country. And I want to take this opportunity to say that the security situation is gradually improving. And I’m sure that when we give more resources to our security agencies, we will see an even faster recovery of our situation.
“As for the COVID-19, I believe that our country, Nigeria should have some resources for our scientists to collaborate with other scientists from across the globe, to also have our own vaccine. Because we can’t rely on what other countries are doing now, every nation to itself; that’s what is happening.
“The U.S. is not allowing vaccines to go out of U.S., EU is not allowing AstraZeneca vaccine produced in UK to be sent out of EU. India is not allowing AstraZeneca vaccine they produced to be exported out. So, where do we go from here? We will have to fall back on our own capacities and abilities. And we have great scientists in this country.
“We have many Nigerians outside Nigeria, who are also helping developing the vaccines in other countries. So, why don’t you bring them home? Why don’t you put some resources so they will also produce ours locally here and take care of our population, and the later other African countries, especially our neighbours.
“So, I believe that we had a very good discussions and interaction with Mr. President along those lines.”
On security, the Senate President said though funds had been previously provided for the purchase of military equipment, more is required.
“Of course, approval of funds for the purchase of platforms, weapons and equipment are essential. We have already approved so much. And that’s why we are expecting Tucano jet fighters to be here. We are expecting some APCs from Jordan. We’re expecting some APCs from China and we believe that we have not had enough.
“We still need to approve more resources for the purchase of weapons for our Armed Forces, because this is the number one priority of government or any government really, to secure the people and of course, later the welfare.
“So, we believe that we will be doing the right thing, if there is a request through supplementary appropriation bill from the Presidency or executive arm of government, and then we approve.
“Of course, depending, we have to have clear cut definition of how much is going for what. We are not going to just give approval like that for a general thing. We want to see how the funds will be utilised. But it is mandatory that we provide more resources for our armed forces, and they are doing well,” he said.
On how soon Nigerians should expect the passing of some bills critical to the economy, like the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), Lawan said: “Well, thank God, the two committees of the National Assembly, the joint committee in the Senate and the special adhoc committee are doing very well. They have been working very hard; they are working jointly – both the Senate and House.
“At the moment, I think they are about to start writing the report, which they will lay before the two chambers of the National Assembly sometimes in April, probably by the middle of next month, April.
Also speaking, Gbajabiamila noted that the new service chiefs have started well since the changes were made by President Buhari.
“Well so far so good. The new service chiefs have hit the ground running from what I can see. They were screened and they were screened very thoroughly, and very vigorously. And they come with high pedigree.”