Reps to probe State House clinic’s budgets

Members of the House of Representatives during a plenary


• Seek increase of N18,000 minimum wage
• Plan stiffer penalties for quackery in medical practice

The House of Representatives yesterday resolved to investigate the N11.01 billion State House Clinic’s budgets under former President Goodluck Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari.According to the lawmakers, the N11.01billion represents budgets of the clinic in the last three years. The resolution followed a motion titled “Need to investigate the deplorable condition of the State House Clinic and the alleged deductions from the salaries and allowances of the medical staff” by Henry Archibong (PDP, Akwa Ibom).

Leading the debate on the motion, Archibong, who said that the clinic had, over the years, been receiving annual budgetary allocations to procure equipment to function optimally, noted that in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Appropriation Acts, the clinic was allocated the sums of N3.94 billion, N3.87 billion and N3.2 billion for upgrade and provision of necessary drugs and equipment.

He said that despite the huge budgetary allocations, the clinic lacked necessary facilities such as syringes, drugs and equipment needed to save lives, as observed by the wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari recently. Mrs. Buhari had lamented publicly during a stakeholders’ meeting her inability to access even the simplest drugs at the State House Clinic.

The committee would investigate the deplorable condition of the clinic and the alleged deductions from the salaries and allowances of the medical staff and report back within three weeks.The House urged President Buhari to review upward the N18,000 minimum wage for workers in the country.

Adopting a motion sponsored by Peter Akpatason at the plenary presided over by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, the House urged President Buhari to direct the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, to intensify the process of concluding negotiations with the relevant stakeholders to achieve the goal. The lawmakers also mandated the Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity to ensure the implementation of the resolution.

While moving the motion, Akpatason (Akoko Edo: Edo: PDP), said that the N18,000 minimum wage had been rendered worthless by inflation and weak exchange value of the naira, resulting in the erosion of the purchasing power of fixed income
earners.

He noted that an upward adjustment of the minimum wage would have a positive effect on the nation’s economy the same way the payments of outstanding debts to contractors and arrears of salaries and pensions to workers did in contributing to the reflation of the economy, which in turn partly contributed to the eventual exit of the economy from recession.

The lawmaker expressed concern that the government was yet to show commitment to an upward review of the minimum wage despite the tripartite agreement by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the National Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and the Federal Government that a joint review team should be set up to study and recommend an appropriate rate for implementation.

Akpatason further claimed that despite the fact that the labour unions submitted names of their nominees and made several requests for the commencement of the review process, the government was yet to respond positively. He thereby warned that any nationwide strike embarked upon by workers was capable of rolling back economic gains, thereby returning the nation’s fragile economy into recession that would further exacerbate the suffering of the masses.

Also yesterday, the bill seeking to jack up penalty for quackery in the medical profession passed second reading on the floor of the House.If passed into law, the penalties for quackery would have been increased from N5,000 to N1million and N10,000 to N10million, and the offenders’ jail term increased to either five or ten years.

Sponsored by Dozie Ferdinand Nwankwo, the bill further seeks to amend the provisions of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act.“Section 17(5) (a) and (b) of the Act prescribed punishments of fines between N5,000 and N10, 000 against the practice of quackery and others,” he explained.

Nwankwo stressed that the amendment would bring the punishment prescribed in the Act to conform with existing realities.The lawmaker said that no punishment could be severe enough to punish quackery, adding that by increasing the punishment it would send a strong message to others to desist from such an act.

He said: “The truth of the matter is that no punishment can be severe enough to punish quackery in the medical and dental profession. While it is often said that lawyers’ mistakes end up in prison, doctors’ mistakes end up in the graveyard.

“The consequences of quackery are often times irremediable. A situation where punishments under the Act provide for a fine as low as N5,000 or N10,000 is indeed one begging for a review.

“By the passage of this bill, this House will be sending a very strong message that acts of quackery where medical practice is misrepresented can no longer be condoned. The lives of our country men and women remain sacrosanct and everything should be done to preserve and legislate avoidable deaths out of existence.”

The House said it would sanction and remove powers of some of its committees and panels for failing to carry out assignments that had been given them for about two years now. These committees, it was learnt, are some standing and ad-hoc panels of the House.

In an announcement on the floor of the House, Chairman, the House Committee on Rules and Business, Emmanuel Orker-Jev, informed members that based on the records of the Committee on Rules and Business, 162 reports were still being expected from panels, long after they had been mandated to act on certain decisions and resolutions of the House.



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