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Infectious Diseases Bill 2020: Court refuses to stop debate

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of a Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday refused the request of Senator Dino Melaye to stop the National Assembly from considering the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020.

The former Senator who represented Kogi West, on May 4, dragged the National Assembly and three others before the court over the bill currently before the House of Representatives.

Melaye, in a fundamental human rights enforcement suit, said the bill if passed into law as it is now would breach or likely breach his fundamental rights as provided for in the Nigerian Constitution.

He said the content of the bill is against his freedom to human dignity as enshrined in Articles 4, 6,7,10,11,12 and 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, Articles 2(3),7,8,9,12,17,21 and 22 of The International Covenant On Civil And Political Rights,1976, Articles 3,5,8,9,10,12,13,17 and 20 of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, 1948.

He described the bill as unconstitutional, illegal, wrongful and amount to flagrant abuse of his fundamental rights.

The suit, which has the Clerks of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Inspector General of Police as respondents, seeks an order of the court declaring the provisions of sections 3(8), 5 (3),6,8,13,15,16,17,19,23,30 and 47 of the Control Of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020, invalid and unconstitutional, as same constitute a gross abuse of his fundamental rights and will likely be infringing upon his fundamental rights if eventually passed into law.

He asked the court to restrain the National Assembly from further debating the bill.

However, Justice Ojukwu, in a ruling on Wednesday, refused to grant the order, adding that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the third defendant in the suit, had yet to be served with the court documents.

At the resumed hearing of the case, Kayode Ajulo, told the court that his client, Gbajabiamila, had yet to be served with any processes or court order in respect of the suit.

But counsel to Melaye, Nkem Okoro, argued that the respondents refused to be served as ordered by the court on May 13, 2020.

He said the respondents had failed to file any processes to show cause why such restraining order should not be issued by the court.

He therefore urged the court to order parties to maintain the status quo to protect the subject matter and prevent a situation of foisting a “fait accompli” on the court.

However, Justice Ojukwu declined to grant the request on the grounds that the May 13, 2020 summons for the defendants to appear in court on Wednesday to show cause why they should not be restrained concerning the NCDC bill, was predicated on the service of all the respondents with the required court documents.

“Since the condition precedent has not been met, I would rather hold that the matter proceeds to hearing,” the judge held.

She then ordered that the Speaker be served through his lawyer, who was present in court.

The court thereafter adjourned the case till June 1 for further hearing.

This is the second time the court declined the request by the plaintiff to restrain the respondents from continuing the consideration of the bill.

Earlier on May 13, 2020, the judge refused an ex parte application by the plaintiff asking for an order directing parties to maintain status quo in the matter.

The judge had, instead of granting the restraining order, summoned the five respondents in the suit to appear in court on Wednesday to defend the bill from being stopped by an interim court order as requested by the plaintiff.

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