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Passage of Infectious Diseases Bill unlawful without Nigerians’ input – civil society

Nigeria’s representative of Transparency International (TI), Auwal Rafsajani, says part of the contentious infectious disease bill is unconstitutional and against Nigerians’ interest, adding that its passage without the input of stakeholders would make it illegal.

The bill sponsored by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and two other members was intended to repeal the Nigeria quarantine law. Last Tuesday it hurriedly passed for first and second readings and was subsequently referred to the committee of the House, bypassing the usual public hearing before final passage.

The move has generated debates on the intention behind the speedy move. However, on resumption of plenary on Tuesday, the House Speaker said the bill would be put forward to a public hearing where stakeholders’ contribution would be sought.

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But speaking on a television programme monitored Tuesday night, Rafsanjani, said the bill was sensitive and important and would be appreciated better by Nigerians if they make input into it.

“It is important that Nigerians make input into that legislation. Part of that bill is unconstitutional and against Nigerians’ interest. That is why it is important to put the bill to public scrutiny,” Rafsanjani said.

The TI boss said though there was a gap in the current framework being used in the fight against COVID-19 in the country, he urged the National Assembly to be more proactive in its oversight function in monitoring the disbursement of the COVID-19 relief and funds.

“There is the need to allow Nigerians who have the knowledge and capacity a chance so that they can give recommendation that would input to make the bill a better one. It would also make the bill have acceptance and legitimacy among Nigerians,” he said.

Also speaking on the programme, Henry Ewunonu a member the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) advocated the creation of special courts that would take care of emergency cases during epidemic period, stressing that it had become necessary because current laws was been abused by politicians.

Ewunonu, who is a pathologist, however, said rather than having a new bill, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Act of 2018 could be amended and deficiencies strengthen.

“I think the house of representatives should do a complete withdrawal of the bill; we need to look at the NCDC Act of 2018 and see ways of strengthening it,” he said.

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