Thursday, 14 January 2016

Lassa fever: Benue Reps Disagree Over Rat Delicacy

Members of the House of Representatives from Benue State on Wednesday disagreed among themselves on whether to eat rats or not.

The rodent, which lives in both bushes and human homes, is a delicacy widely consumed in Benue State, particularly among the Tiv tribe.

The rat is also one of the known carriers of the deadly Lassa fever virus, which has claimed 41 lives in its resurgence in Nigeria.

But, on Wednesday, as the House debated a motion calling on the Federal Government to urgently contain the spread of the virus, lawmakers from Benue State got into an argument over the consumption of rats.

The motion on the virus was originally sponsored by a member from Imo State, Mr. Chike Okafor.

Okafor only urged the House to intervene by advising relevant government health agencies to contain the spread of the virus. But Mr. Hassan Saleh, from the Idoma tribe of Benue State stirred the disagreement when he called for a total ban on the eating of rats.

“People should stop eating rats; the disease is dangerous,” said Saleh, representing Ogbadibo/Ado/Okpokwu Federal Constituency.

“We have lost lives and the fear is that this is more than when the Ebola Virus was here. So, people should stop eating rats.”

In response, his Tiv brothers, the Chairman, House Committee on Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Herman Hembe; and the Chairman, House Committee Rules and Business, Mr. Oker Jev, immediately opposed his suggestion by urging the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, to call Saleh to order.

The two chorused that stopping the eating of rats could not be the solution.

Hembe, who represents Konshisha Federal Constituency, raised his hand several times, shaking his head in disagreement while insisting that he must speak to counter Saleh’s suggestion.

He eventually jumped up to speak without being recognised, but the speaker politely turned him down, saying he would not allow the chamber to be turned into a rats affair, amid a thunderous laughter on the floor.

Saleh thereafter left his seat to confer with Hembe and Jev on their seats. The three lawmakers later shook hands and resumed their legislative work.

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