Following a bill for the establishment of a federal medical centre in Okigwe, headquarters of Imo North Senatorial District, the Senate is set to approve the bill.
The bill, tagged: Federal Medical Centre Okigwe (Establishment) Bill 2023, which is sponsored by Sir Frank Chukwuma Ibezim, the senator representing the zone in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly, on Tuesday scaled the first reading and slated for the second reading on Wednesday.
The lawmaker said with the passage of the bill, residents of the zone would have access to first-rate medical attention.
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Also, Ibezim is pushing for the establishment of a project development agency through another bill, titled: Project Development Agency Bill (SB. 1097), which is
aimed at generating and catalysing industrialisation by carrying out industrial research from the laboratory stage to the pilot plant stage.
The bill seeks to give legal backing to the 43-year-old Project Development Institute (PRODA) in Enugu State to enable the agency to function optimally.
According to the lawmaker: “For PRODA, which has been established for 43 years, in Enugu, South-east east of Nigeria to function optimally, we have to give it legal backing. So, coming to the Senate and realising that it has no legal backing, l felt like there is no reason we should not give it a legal backing because once PRODA has a legal backing, it would be very effective and do the right functions it ought to do.
“And you know the importance of research, and development, south east where we have lots of needs for us to showcase the natural products over there, PRODA was established all these years for it to do that and it has not be done optimally. That is why l came up with the bill to give it legal backing and make it to function,” Ibezim explained.
Speaking further, the APC lawmaker said: “When it is passed into law, it would ensure the research institute would perform under international best practices. So, it is apt and timely knowing the time we are in now; we need to recreate whatever we can do for our country technologically, as Nigeria is bleeding.
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“A country where more than 70% of the citizens are 40 years and under, it means that we have a challenge of jobs. So, PRODA effectively would not only create jobs but also fast-track the technology areas.”
Ibezim recalled that PRODA, formerly known as the Research and Production Department of the old Eastern Region, was the manufacturing engine room for the prosecution of the civil war for the defunct Biafra Republic.
“One of the most notable inventions of the institute during the civil war was the “ogbunigwe” bomb, a self-propelled rocket with an 8-kilometre range that could wipe out a company of enemy troops.
“After the civil war, it was renamed PRODA and enlisted as one of the 17 agencies under the Ministry of Science and Technology and pioneered the first made-in-Nigeria ‘car’, branded PRODA.
“The low-cost prototype was taken on a roadshow across the country. However, a functional version of the vehicle did not see the light of the day, as the government later jettisoned the idea.
“After years of being in limbo, PRODA crept back into the consciousness of many Nigerians recently after the immediate past Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, announced that by 2018 Nigeria would start the production of pencils. PRODA was the agency saddled with the responsibility of leading this ‘revolution.’
“But despite huge budgetary allocations, perhaps to kick-off the pencil production, the government has been unable to rouse the comatose agency from its deep slumber. The so-called pencil revolution is yet to start, and the agency is fast rotting away.
On the proposed FMC, Okigwe, Ibezim stated: “I also had a Federal Medical Centre Okigwe (Establishment) Bill, 2023 (SB1100) that has passed first reading. We cannot overemphasise the importance of bringing the health facility in the place and l believe and always said it that, at least, every senatorial district should have a federal medical centre. We would do all we can to fast-track all the bills before we go for campaign and election.”