The controversial Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 which seeks to repeal the Quarantine Act of 1926 was sponsored by Hons. Femi Gbajabiamila, Pascal Obi and Tanko Sununu. Critics were quick to point out the speed at which the bill passed the floor of the National Assembly; the doctoring of Singaporean law in the drafting of the bill; and its infringement on the rights of Nigerians. The House of Assembly invited stakeholders, civil society organizations and the general public to a hearing on the bill on Wednesday, 10th June and Thursday, 11th June, 2020 in Abuja. DHI was present at the hearing and was represented by Francis Ukoh.
The stakeholders were allowed to make their own contributions. The Ministry of Justice, NAFDAC, The Nigerian Governors Forum and Doctors Health Initiative (DHI) were amongst the organizations who made presentations on Wednesday, 10th of June.
The Nigerian Labour Congress captured the sentiments of majority of the participants, stating that the bill was unacceptable; was an infringement on the rights of Nigerians; and called on government to provide quality healthcare and improve the standard of living instead.
DHI drew attention to the suddenness, speediness and untimeliness of the bill and stressed that it would lead to abuse of power. The Committee was called upon to work on modalities to approach persons presumed infected. DHI suggested the establishment of a Medical and Legal Emergency Response Team to ensure due procedure and avoid unnecessary litigation. The loopholes in various sections of the bill were also highlighted – S.51 should be expunged; S.24 should be reviewed as it is too broad; S.25 on the power of enforcement officers to destroy should be revisited; S.47, particularly children’s vaccination should be revisited with a caveat; S.48 ordering persons for vaccination and other prophylaxes should be reviewed because they are clearly infringements to the personal freedom of Nigerians; persons living with disability were not captured by the bill; and finally, the powers given to the director general of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) should be reviewed.
As Nigerians wait to see what the outcome of these deliberations will be, it is important to note that Hon. Gbajabiamila’s representative to the Session, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, had earlier on in his opening speech reiterated the House’s position in going on with the bill. He claimed that there were competent persons in the Committee. On the other hand, it was obvious that an overwhelmingly large percentage (99%) of those present at the public hearing were opposed to the bill.
Francis Nnamdi Ukoh, a DHI volunteer, was our representative to the public hearing on the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill held on 10th and 11th June, 2020. He wrote in from Abuja, Nigeria