President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday met behind closed doors with Senate President Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, at the State House, Abuja.
Speaking to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, Mr Lawan said they deliberated on crucial national issues including the issue of supplementary budget meant to provide for the funding of the COVID-19 vaccination.
He said the supplementary budget would also cater for the logistics and welfare needs of the nation’s security agencies to enable them effectively tackle the challenges of insecurity across the country.
“We have come to meet with Mr. President, to discuss issues of serious national concern. And one of those issues is the issue of a supplementary budget.
“Both executive and legislative arms believe that we should have a supplementary budget to provide for funding of the COVID-19 vaccination in Nigeria, as well as the security, providing more resources and platforms to our security agencies.
“And today, I’m sure in Nigeria, there are no more grave issues than COVID-19 and the 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 will have more resources our security agencies will see an even faster recovery of our situation,’’ he said.
On COVID-19 vaccines, Mr Lawan stressed the need for Nigerian scientists to collaborate with other scientists from across the globe to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine locally.
The senate president expressed the readiness of the National Assembly to support such scientific ideas to boost local manufacturing of vaccines in the country.
He stated that local production of the vaccines had become imperative in view of the decisions of some vaccine producing countries not to supply their products to other countries for reasons best known to them.
“As for the COVID, 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 US is not allowing vaccines to go out of the US. The EU is not allowing AstraZeneca vaccines produced in the UK to be sent out of the EU. India is not allowing AstraZeneca vaccines they produce 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 develop 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 other African countries especially our neighbours.
“So I believe that we had a very good discussions and interaction with Mr President along those lines,’’ Mr Lawan said.
On security challenges, Mr Lawan assured that the National Assembly would continue to approve funds meant to provide more sophisticated equipment and gadgets for security agencies to tackle insurgency and other criminal activities in the country.
“We’re expecting some APCs from China. And we believe that we’ve 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 the 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 a supplementary appropriation bill from the presidency or executive arm of government, we’ll look at it and approve.
“Of course, we have to have a clear cut definition of how much is going for what, we’re 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 his part, Mr Gbajabiamila, who fielded questions on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), said the National Assembly was committed to approving the bill by the end of April.
He said: “We made a commitment to the Nigerian people and that commitment is April, end of April.
“But let me just add that, you know, give or take two three weeks, like he said, may only… because at the time the commitment was made, we didn’t take into cognizance the fact that Easter break and Ramadan are coming up as well.
“We’re still shooting for the end of April. But we’re not going to straitjacket ourselves into a particular date. When I say end of April, we are talking thereabout, it maybe a week after maybe two weeks after at most, our best.’’
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