Prof C. O. Onyebuchi Chukwu, Minister of Health
The National Health Bill 2012, which had already scaled through second reading in the Senate, has been described unconstitutional, self-serving and incompatible with cherished human values as enshrined in the constitution and many African and international human rights instruments.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Sonnie Ekwowusi faulted the bill in a statement, recalling that President Goodluck Jonathan declined assent to a version of the bill, which the National Assembly passed into law in 2011.
He observed that President Jonathan had to send the bill back to the National Assembly because the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), the Health Workers Association of Nigeria and other stakeholders “opposed the bill on grounds that it failed to protect their interests.
“In the same vein, non-government organisations, churches, mosques and members of civil society unanimously denounced the bill as incapable of solving the country’s urgent primary healthcare needs. Very painfully, the bill endorses trafficking in human tissues and human embryos,” he said.
He specifically explained that section 51 of the Bill “empowers the Health Minister, through his written permission, (with or without the non binding recommendation of National Ethics Research Committee), to grant a license to any person or group of persons to import or export Nigerian human zygotes or embryos to foreign countries for whatever purposes including cloning (therapeutic or otherwise)”.
He therefore questioned the same offensive section 51 was re-introduced verbatim in the new National Health Bill, knowing fully well that it was on that ground that the public successfully challenged the old bill, thereby leading President Jonathan to withhold his assent.
According to him, in a country like Nigeria where uncountable Nigerians are dying owing to inaccessibility to basic primary health, the National Assembly goes about making laws that encourage exploitation and trafficking in human eggs, embryos, embryonic stem cell research, therapeutic and reproductive cloning.
He added that trafficking in human eggs, embryos and embryonic stem cell research “has become a multibillion dollar business worldwide. If Nigeria goes ahead and legalizes it, it will very difficult to control or regulate considering our ineffective police system, judicial checks and regulatory policies”.
Ekwowusi said despite the trumpeting about human cloning over these years, no university laboratory or centre of research “has been authorized to carry out a prolonged work on human cloning not only because of the danger involved or its moral implications or the scientific polemics involved but because of the enormous money which such white elephant experimentation would guzzle.