The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, was unhappy when he noticed that both the Minister of Health and the Minister of State for Health failed to show up for a public hearing at the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Messrs Osagie Ehanire and Olorunnmibe Mamora did not only snub the meeting which was scheduled for 1 p.m., they also failed to send representatives from the ministry to the hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Health.
It is, however, not clear if they sent a message to the panel excusing themselves from the meeting.
The scheduled public hearing was for three health bills being considered in the Senate.
The bills are: “A Bill for an Act to amend the Orthopaedic Hospital Management Board Act No. 21 of 1979 and for other related matters to provide for the establishment of the Federal Orthopaedic Hospital, Kuta (Niger State), Bill 2021” sponsored by Sani Musa; “National University of Health and Medical Sciences Suleja, Niger State, (Establishment), Bill 2021” also sponsored by Sani Musa; and the “Federal University of Medical Sciences Abeokuta, Ogun State (establishment) Bill 2021,” sponsored by Ibikunle Amosun.
Mr Lawan, who was invited to declare the session open, noticed the absence of representatives from the ministry and registered his displeasure before doing so.
The event, he noted, is responsible for bills passed by the National Assembly which are sometimes denied assent by President Muhammadu Buhari due to ‘wrong advice’ from ministry officials.
“I have a written speech for this event but before then where is the Minister of Health or Minister of State Health? Or is there anyone representing the Ministry of Health?
“This is an anomaly and we don’t take it kindly because sometimes the National Assembly would process a bill and the bill will be taken to Mr President for his assent and somebody will just go round and ‘misadvise’ that that Bill should not be assented to. And this is done mostly by ministry officials,” the Senate president said.
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He wondered why an invitation by the Senate committee will be snubbed by the ministers when the session is in the interest of the government and good governance.
“It is always in the interest of the government and good governance that when there is a public hearing – the ministry, government officials, the technical people – should be around to hear the views of the people.
“And if they have any objection, they should say so in the presence of everyone, so that they listen to arguments.
“Therefore it is sad that neither the minister, nor the minister of state, nor anyone from the federal ministry of health is here to attend this particular public hearing and I think it is sad. And nothing should happen to our bills,” he added.
He, however, went ahead to declare the event open. Officials were called to make their inputs to the bills with regards to their provisions.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the panel, Ibrahim Oloriegbe, said the purpose of the hearing was to articulate the views of stakeholders and the general public on the three bills with a view to coming up with balanced legislation that would be acceptable to all.
Efforts to ask why the ministers were absent at the hearing were unsuccessful as the Director of Information, Brenda Nwokike, could not be reached via phone.