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Gbajabiamila disagrees with critics of Infectious Disease Control Bill

...Bill to be subjected to public hearing before final passage

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has disagreed with the suggestions that this is not the ideal time to seek reforms of the infectious diseases and public health emergency framework in the country via the Infectious Disease Control Bill.

Gbajabiamila said the weaknesses of the present system has already manifested in the inability of the government to hold to proper account those whose refusal to adhere with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines led to the further spread of the coronavirus in Nigeria.

“We have had people break out from isolation centres, and others, who fully aware of their status chose to travel across state lines on public transport,” he noted.

The Speaker who made these assertions while Members of the House at the resumption of plenary session on Tuesday, said since the introduction of the Bill a week ago, there has been a barrage of criticisms against it, with allegations of sinister motives.

He said the allegations that the Bill is a sinister attempt to turn Nigerians into guinea pigs for medical research while taking away their fundamental human rights was far from the truth.

Gbajabiamila stressed that as representatives of the Nigerian people, Members of the House would never contemplate doing anything that would jeopardize the wellbeing of the citizens.

“Suffice it to say that none of these allegations are true. Unfortunately, we now live in a time when conspiracy theories have gained such currency that genuine endeavours in the public interest can quickly become mischaracterised and misconstrued to raise the spectre of sinister intent and ominous possibility.

“This House of Representatives will never take any action that purposes to bring harm to any Nigerian here at home or abroad. As we have thus far shown by our conduct, the resolutions and actions we take in this 9th House of Representatives will always be in the best interests of the Nigerian people who elected us, and no one else.

“In the recent uproar, certain fundamental truths have been lost and are worth remembering. Our current framework for the prevention and management of infectious diseases is obsolete and no longer fit for purpose. The current law severely constrains the ability of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to take proactive action to prevent the entry into Nigeria of infectious diseases and the management of public health emergencies when they occur.

“Even now, the government remains vulnerable to claims that some directives already being implemented to manage the present crisis do not have the backing of the law and therefore cannot withstand judicial scrutiny”, he maintained.

The Speaker said the House will subject the Bill to a public hearing where Nigerians from all walks of life would be given the opportunity to contribute to the draft law.

Gbajabiamila noted that the social distancing guidelines that the House and the whole country operate for the now would not allow for a usual format of public hearing, noting that other avenues would be explored to get public input into the well-conceived Bill.

“The Control of Infectious Diseases Bill will be put forward to a public hearing where stakeholder contributions will be sought to make improvements to the Bill before it is reviewed and debated by the Committee of the whole.

“It is from the accumulation of these myriad views, suggestions and good faith critiques from within and outside the House that we will arrive at final legislation that meets the present and future needs of our country, and which we all can support in good consciences.

“If a socially distant public hearing becomes workable, we will certainly explore that option. Nonetheless, the House will provide alternative platforms for all Nigerians who desire to send in written documents that articulate their concerns, make recommendations on amendments and perhaps present other formulations for a new framework for managing infectious diseases in Nigeria.

All the contributions we receive will be considered and aggregated to improve the proposed legislation”, he added.

 

James Kwen,  Abuja

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