After WWII, the world became aware of the holocaust which was the genocide against Jews. This mass extermination, preceded by lockdown, arrests and deportation to Concentration camps, of Jews was an organised quarantine carried out by civil servants obeying official instructions.
In order to forestall the reoccurring of such actions and activities by governments and citizens, the United Nations Charter of Human Rights was set up. This charter protects the universal natural rights of all human beings bestowed on them by the Creator of life. These rights are inalienable and unnegotiable and they must be recognised and protected by all nations and governments.
These Rights include:
The Right to Life
The Right to Personal Liberty
The Freedom from Degrading and Inhumane Treatment
The Right to Personal and Family Life
The Right to Privacy
The Right to Acquire and Own Property
The Freedom of Movement
The Freedom of Religion
These Rights are held sacred and inviolable.
Thus courts in Nigeria, on numerous occasions have struck down Acts of Parliament and other legislation (including executive orders of government) which do violence to any of these fundamental rights as provided in Chapter IV of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
With the above understanding, and looking at the contents and provisions of this proposed bill, one wonders whether our law makers who swore to protect and uphold the constitution of our Federal Republic are committed to keeping the pledge they made.
Reading through this law and looking at the timing, the true intention of the promoters of this bill is questionable. We can dare say that the promoters of this bill are not interested in any sincere control or prohibition of infectious diseases in Nigeria.
The world is presently battling a virus that has affected several nations with no officially announced cure as yet. Fear and dread has been stirred up in people across the world by the media, most unfortunately, about the effects of this disease. It is this fear that some agents, who are behind this bill, want to ride on to rush this law through.
A LOOK AT SOME OF THE PROVISIONS OF THE BILL.
Firstly, aside the first 3 sections of the bill which make mention of the declaration by the President of the Federal Republic of a public health emergency such as Covid-19, all remaining (over) 77 sections of the law talks about matters and/or issues that are not of any urgent importance now, to warrant the National Assembly (breaking the lockdown order and attendant risks to themselves) to gather in Abuja to pass the law without any input by public health workers and other very relevant stake holders in Nigeria.
SOME ODD PROVISIONS OF THE BILL
1. S.3(8) empowers the DG of NCDC, all by himself or any officer under him or a police officer on his direction, to enter into any premises or gathering of people in any area declared by the President as a public health restricted zone without a warrant. This is clearly in breach of the right of Nigerians to freedom of assembly, right to liberty, etc. This kind of power in the hands of over zealous police officer or NCDC official can cause serious civil unrest.
A religious zealot in office as NCDC DG can close up a church crusade or church service or mosque gathering if he so chooses. He doesn’t require a warrant. He doesn’t require any scientific or medical proof to do it. It’s his prerogative. And he cannot be challenged in court.
2. S.5(3). This section empowers the DG to compel you (or any person) if you are SUSPECTED by him of having an infectious disease or being in contact with anyone suspected, to undergo a medical examination or test that he (the DG) prescribes.
This sub section also allows the DG to take the blood or any other sample from the person for purposes of public health surveillance.
So God help you if your church or Muslim sect is in conflict with the DG or the government in power. You can become a suspect. You cannot appeal to any court or even apply for an interim injunction.
This of course is in breach of the constitutional Right of every Nigerian to his privacy and Right to respect of his human person.
Please note that this sub section, like the other provisions of this bill, has nothing to do with whether there is a public health emergency or not. It is a permanent provision of the law exercisable at any time at the delight of the DG.
If you refuse to allow the DG take his samples or do the prescribed test, you are guilty of an offence.
S.6 also has a similar provision.
3. S.8 makes it obligatory for your personal doctor or lab scientist or nurse treating you to release to the DG, your medical details and records without any regard to the age long professional code of confidentiality between a doctor and his patient. But, alas, the bill renders this professional etiquette a crime to refuse to release the information requested. The DG can do this without recourse to getting a court warrant etc to procure these records which is the usual judicial practice.
Of course, you cannot appeal or have recourse to the courts.
4. S.13 empowers the DG upon only a MERE SUSPICION NOT MEDICAL INFORMATION that you are infected with an infectious disease and/or just recovered from an infectious disease, arrest you and detain you FOR AS LONG AS HE DEEMS NECESSARY WITHOUT A WARRANT OR COURT ORDER at any isolation center of his choice and it is an offence to resist him.
Of course, you cannot challenge this order in court.
We know Nigerians and our history. If the DG or his staff should have a private issue against you or your tribe or your religion, only God can help you.
5. S.15 is the only section referring to the Federal Minister of Health in this part of the bill. He can declare any premises whether public or private as an isolation center and the moment this is announced, nobody will be allowed to enter or leave the premises without the authorisation of the Minister.
Your church or your mosque or your school etc can be converted into an isolation center.
Your right to enjoyment of your property is thereby taken away WITHOUT COMPENSATION as required by our Federal Constitution.
6. S.16, the DG CAN DECLARE ANY BUILDING OR GATHERING (vigil, campmeeting, political rally, convention etc) as OVERCROWDED AND WITHOUT ANY COURT ORDER or WARRANT ENTER THE PREMISES USING SUCH FORCE AS HE DEEMS NECESSARY TO DISPERSE THE GATHERING AND MAY ALSO CLOSE THE BUILDING.
A similar provision is in S.17.
This is probably the most dangerous provision in this bill. It can be, and will be, very much abused.
You or your church or mosque or political party etc cannot challenge this in court.
7. S.23 authorises the DG or an enforcement officer of his agency or police to seize anyone walking on any street whom he SUSPECTS of having an infectious disease without any warrant or court order.
You can say goodbye to your son or brother or husband etc in the morning and that would be the last time you see them for the foreseeable future.
All that is required is a suspicion. Do you know that the bill empowers your neighbour to report you or your family members if he suspects you of having an infectious disease? If he suspected you but didn’t report it, he’s guilty of an offence.
So egungun be careful before you reject an unwanted sexual advance.
8. S.19 EMPOWERS THE DG TO CLOSE ANY MEETING OR PUBLIC GATHERING OR EVENT HE CONSIDERS TO LIKELY INCREASE THE SPREAD OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE WITHOUT ANY COURT ORDER.
With this provision, mega churches, mega crusades, mega vigils, and anything mega: bye
9. S.30 makes vaccination compulsory if you are leaving or arriving Nigeria. Whether you like it or not. Whether you want to or not. You must vaccinate.
10. S.47 Empowers the DG to direct COMPULSORY VACCINATION in an outbreak or a SUSPECTED OUTBREAK.
SOME SALIENT POINTS
1. The bill sanctions any failure to comply with the directive of the DG of NCDC as an offence . THE ESSENCE OF THIS IS THAT THE BILL SEEKS TO TURN THE AVERAGE NIGERIAN into a Criminal on a sensitive issue of health.
2.The bill gives so much power to the NCDC DG with the attendant risk of abuse by an occupier of the position and the rank and file officers of NCDC. The DG has more powers than the Federal Minister of Health in an area that is under the ambit of the Minister and his ministry.
3. The Bill fails to take into consideration the Federalism status of Nigeria with the overreaching authority given to NCDC DIRECTOR -GENERAL and the Minister of Health on matters under the exclusive powers of the States.
4. There are no specific provisions to check the potential abuse of powers of the DG and the MINISTER of HEALTH in the bill.( NO CHECKS AND BALANCES).
5. The authority to take over the PRIVATE PROPERTY OF NIGERIANS and turn them into ISOLATION CENTERS in S.15 of the Bill at the instance of the DG and the Minister of Health in any part of the Federation is a potential abuse of the rights of Nigerians to own and enjoy property is in direct contravention of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
FINALLY, THE BILL OUSTS THE JURISDICTION OF THE COURTS. THE BILL SAYS THAT ANYONE WHO IS AGGRIEVED WITH ANY DECISION OF THE DG OR ANY OF HIS ORDERS CAN ONLY APPEAL TO THE MINISTER OF HEALTH AND SUCH DECISION IS FINAL.
DOESN’T THIS REMIND YOU OF DECREE 4 OF 1984? THAT LAW WAS MADE IN AN ERA WHEN THE CONSTITUTION WAS SUSPENDED AND NIGERIA WAS UNDER THE MILITARY.
ARE WE BACK THERE TODAY? IS DEMOCRACY GONE?