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Coronavirus: Senate to invite Health Minister, Ohanire

…wants Customs to stop ‘illegal’ exportation of surgical face-masks
The Senate on Thursday resolved to invite the Minister of Health, Osagie Emmanuel Ohanire, to brief the upper chamber on the preparedness of his ministry towards taking precautionary measures to stem a possible outbreak of the Coronavirus in Nigeria.
This was even as the Senate charged the Nigerian Custom Service (NCS), to as a matter of urgency, introduce measures to stop the exportation of surgical face-masks from Nigeria to Asia and other countries affected by the dreaded Coronavirus.
The upper chamber also urged the Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Federal Ministry of Health, Nigerian Immigration Service and other relevant Government authorities to strengthen port health regulatory services in all entry ports across the country to check the outbreak of the virus in Nigeria.
These formed part of resolutions adopted following consideration of a motion sponsored by Senator Ifeanyi Ubah (YPP – Anambra South) on Thursday.
Presenting his motion, Ubah said, “Over the last three weeks, face-masks have become the most sought after commodity in Nigeria with over 100 million face-masks being unpatriotically exported to Asia using the Murtala Mohammed Airport and Port Harcourt International Airport.”
The lawmaker disclosed that “the exportation of these face-masks have led to a surge in the market prices.”
“As at 5th of November, 2019, stores that usually sell 1 piece of face-mask for N10 now sell it for N80, while a pack consisting of 50 pieces has now inflated from N500 to N3,000; with a carton consisting of 40 packs also inflated from N20,000 to N120,000.
“It has now become a booming trade for illicit traders aided by airport officials in Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos and Port Harcourt International Airport to unpatriotically export face-masks to China, India and other affected countries,” Ubah lamented.
He warned that unless something is done, Nigeria may soon be facing shortage of protective surgical face-masks, especially against the backdrop that “Nigeria is on the brink of an imminent outbreak given our massive population and frequency to travel.”
The lawmaker further disclosed that “Chinese companies have sent their agents to scout for medical face-masks in Nigeria and other African countries”, adding that “India and other countries are mass producing the face-masks in order to curb this deadly trend.”
He noted with concern that the World Health Organization has recorded 565 deaths with 28,276 cases of infected persons.
“If proactive measures are not taken to checkmate borders, an imminent outbreak might occur in the same manner which an infected carrier immigrant from Liberia transferred Ebola disease to Nigeria in 2014,” Ubah warned.
Consequently, the Senate urged the Nigerian Customs Service to impose strict penalties and heavy fines on anybody trying to export surgical face-masks within the period of the Coronavirus outbreak.
The upper chamber also mandated the Health Ministry and other relevant agencies to launch a sensitization and awareness campaign in preventing an outbreak of the virus in Nigeria.
Dele Fashomi
Dele Fashomi, seasoned journalist and communication teacher, is a holder of Master of Arts degree in Communication and Language Arts from the University of Ibadan in 1992/93.Earlier, he had bagged a Bachelor degree from the same university in 1984, after which he proceeded to the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos, in 1990, for a postgraduate diploma in Journalism.He had done many courses in communication, including the EU-BBC Editing Course in 2002.Mr. Fashomi combines effectively the practice, research and teaching of communication. And to date, he has published two academic works in communication: Issues in Communication Technology and Policy (2010) and Economic and Social Issues in Advertising and PR (2013).He had his first break in the Nigerian media in Concord Newspapers in 1990 and today, he has over two and half decades experience earned in several newspapers.He has been part of many start-ups, such as The Republic (1987), The Comet (1999), The Anchor 2001 - 2002; Sun Newspapers (2003); Westerner newsmagazine (2005 - 2010) as Editor; National Life (2011) as Sunday Editor, and Newswatch Newspapers (2012- 2016) as Daily Editor.Dele Fashomi is now the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of newspaper online, which he started in July 2015. He is also into biography writing, with many books in his trail, some of which he wrote alone and one he co- authored with his mentor, Mr Dare Babarinsa, entitled:  Olabiyi Durojaiye - DARE TO BE DiFFERENT. He also guided and collaborated with Pa Olatunji Odusanya in writing his autobiography - AGAINST ALL ODDS. There are many other books in the works under his pen.