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Group tackles Gbajabiamila over controversial Infectious Disease Bill



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Civil Society Organisations in the country have raised concerns over the ‘Control of Infectious Diseases Bill’ being sponsored by Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives.

In a statement signed by 36 of them, the CSO’s pointed out several issues with the proposed bill including saying that it posed threats to human rights and abuse of power.

It would be recalled that the National Assembly during its sitting on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 considered the Infectious Diseases Bill, which was co-sponsored by Gbajabiamila, Rep Pascal Obi, and Rep Tanko Sununu.

The bill, which seeks to repeal the obsolete Quarantine Act of 1929 and enact the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, make provisions relating to quarantine and regulations for preventing the introduction into and spread of dangerous infectious diseases in Nigeria, and for other related matters.

The bill passed first and second reading at plenary under controversial circumstances and was said to have been considered for third reading the same day, if not that some lawmakers resisted it.

However, responding the bill, the CSO’s expressed alarm over the attempt by federal lawmakers to give accelerated passage to such a critical legislation like the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill without consultation and inputs from relevant stakeholders and the public.

The CSOs noted that the proposed Bill vests overbearing discretionary powers on the Director General of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC), while making no provision for reviewing and controlling the exercise of such powers.

They stated that while the threat of infectious diseases may be apparent, measures deployed for their prevention must be within the ambits of the law and must protect citizens from willful abuse of rights.

They also alleged that the Bill violates key principles of legislative drafting rules mandating laws to be simple, clear and unambiguous.

According to them, this leaves room for significant amount of discretion on the part of the implementing authorities and limits the rights of citizens and respective institutions to question decisions taken in the exercise of the powers provided in the bill.

The CSO’s, therefore, demanded among other things that:  The House of Representatives subject the Bill to public scrutiny by embarking on stakeholder consultations and a public hearing to harness public inputs into the legislation; Review all provisions of the Bill that foster inter-agency conflicts and abuse of power and undermine constitutionally guaranteed rights and are contrary to the rule of law and Nigeria’s International human rights obligations.

Among the CSO’s that signed the statement include Girl Child Africa, Center For Liberty, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Amnesty International and Yiaga Africa