It can be recalled that since the year 2020 when COVID-19 pandemic struck the whole world, the government have made the use of nose mask compulsory especially in public environment. However, a member of the House of Representatives, Olufemi Adebanjo, on Thursday, protested against the wearing of face masks in the chamber and his reason is that the pandemic is over and continuous use of nose mask has adverse health implications.
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 stood firmly on his ground and 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.”
Ahmed Wase, the Deputy Speaker of the House, who presided over the session, on the other hand reminded everyone that it is important 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.”
As part of safety measure against the virus, the Nigerian government had directed all its employees to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus as this will soon become a prerequisite for gaining access into their various offices.
It was announced that beginning December 1, 2021 all federal government employees will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or present a negative PCR result to gain access to their offices.
“With effect from 1st December, 2021, Federal Government employees shall be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result done within 72 hours, to gain access to their offices, in all locations within Nigeria and our Missions,” the statement said.
It was observed that despite the outbreak of Omicron, a deadlier variant of COVID-19, lawmakers have 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.