*House afraid returnees could infect Nigerians
By Gift Chapi Odekina
Dashing public expectation, the House of Representatives yesterday rejected a motion seeking to evacuate Nigerians resident in China due to the recent outbreak of the deadly Corona Virus.
The motion which was brought to the floor by Hon. Benjamin Kalu, spokesperson of the House, had urged government to evacuate stranded Nigerians in China, following the Corona Virus outbreak.
Hardly had the lawmaker concluded his introductory remarks on the motion which he jointly sponsored with the Deputy Majority Leader, Hon. Peter Akpatason; the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu and several others, than other members of the Green Chamber began to murmur in hushed tones.
Sensing their discomfort, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila urged the members to keep cool as their body language had been taken care of in the body of the motion.
He said: “I can understand why you are murmuring, but the body of the motion already took care of your worries. I had a little glance at the motion”.
When the Speaker put the question for members’ votes on whether the matter was urgent and important enough for the House to take on immediately, majority of the members thundered “Nay!”
The Speaker, after a few minutes consultation with Kalu and some other sponsors of the motion, asked him to again clearly cite the title of the motion for a better understanding by the members, to which Kalu said it was on the “urgent need to quarantine and evacuate stranded Nigerians in China”.
This again elicited another round of murmuring and laughter, prompting the Speaker to wade in explaining that “perhaps what Hon. Ben (Kalu) wanted to say was “evacuate and quarantine”, adding, “you have managed to confuse the mover of the motion the more”.
When he asked Akpatason to second the motion as one of the sponsors, the lawmaker rather stated that “based on the consultations made by the leadership and what appeared to be a serious misunderstanding of the motion, we ask for the leave of the House to step it down”.
Still undaunted, the Speaker said “nobody wants to bring them (the stranded Nigerians) back to infect people here. So, let’s hear the motion first, and the prayers. If we don’t like it, we can kill it at that point”, and subsequently asked Elumelu, another co-sponsor to second it, but Elumelu declined to do so, feigning to have a non-functional microphone on his desk.
When the motion was finally seconded by Hon. Tajudeen Yususf, majority of the members still voted in the negative, bringing the attempt to assist Nigerians desirous to return from China abrupt end to such notion.