From: Kemi Yesufu and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The House of Representatives has mandated its committees on Health to investigate the death of three students of Queens College, Yaba, Lagos, following an epidemic outbreak in the school.
The House also condemned a directive from the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, through a circular, stopping parents and students of the school from making comments on the incident, especially on social media as any student who flouts the order would be expelled.
Queens College, one of Nigeria’s oldest secondary schools, was in the news for the wring reasons after two students, Vivian Osuinyi and Bithia Itulua, died of diarrhoea, between Thursday, February 23 and Friday, February 24, 2017.
The death toll from the epidemic linked to a contamination of the source of water supply in the school, increased to three with the passing of 14 year old orphan, Praise Sodipo.
The House, in adopting a motion raised under matters of urgent public importance, on the outbreak of epidemic leading to the death of 3 students and many hospitalised in Queens College, Yaba, Lagos, sponsored by Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, directed the joint committee to summon the Minister of Education and his counterpart in the Federal Ministry of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, to explain steps taken by the Federal Government to remedy the situation.
The committee, which is to report back to the House within two weeks, is also to obtain the action plan by both ministries to forestall a re-occurrence of a disease outbreak in the school.
The lawmakers equally called on Adewole to ensure that adequate medical attention is made available to save the lives of victims of the outbreak now hospitalised in different hospitals
Leading the debate on the motion, Gbajabiamila expressed disappointment over the memo written by the Education minister, saying, rather than take action that would bring succour to students and their worried parents, the minister chose a high handed approach to the matter.
The lawmaker who held up pictures of dilapidated infrastructure in the school as well as a copy of the memo from the Education minister, further described as insensitive, the insistence of the former principal of the school that there wasn’t a disease outbreak and the remark of the Vice-Principal of the school, that the management of the college ought to be commended for taking care of over 2000 girls with only a few affected during the epidemic outbreak.
Gbajabiamila who disclosed that Queens College was allocated N663 million in the 2016 budget and N776 million in 2017, posited that the House conduct a through investigation on how the school uses funds allocated to it.
Speaking in support of an investigation into the deaths of the students, House Minority Leader, Leo Ogor blamed the outbreak in their school on systemic failure, noting that an epidemic of such proportion never occurred under past governments, since the return of democracy in 1999.
In her contribution, Betty Apiafi, a member of the House Committee on Basic Education explained that the Committee discovered that out of the N663 million allocated to Queens College in 2016, N493 million is for personnel costs and N131 million for capital expenditure, while the allocation for outsourced services such as water and sanitation in health and educational institutions are trapped under the Service Wide Votes.
Apiafi therefore urged that the National Assembly intervenes to ensure that funds meant for outsourced services to be moved from the Service Wide Vote to the budget of agencies where it can me promptly applied for critical services.
Other lawmakers who indicated support for the motion, Baballe Bashir and Hassan Saleh stressed the importance of the House looking into the incident as many parents have stopped sending their children to public schools because they aren’t sure of their safety.