House Bows to Pressure, to Hold Public Hearing on Infectious Diseases Bill


•Sets up committee to probe bribery allegation

Udora Orizu in Abuja

The House of Representatives has resolved to hold a public hearing on the Infectious Diseases Control Bill, 2020 after clamour by stakeholders.

The Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, in a speech yesterday, said the House would take the controversial Infectious Diseases, Control Bill, 2020, through a public hearing.
The speaker has been accused of surreptitious attempts to pass the bill by circumventing due process.

Besides, some provisions of the bill have been criticised for being antithetical to constitutional provisions.

Also, Senator Dino Melaye had sued the National Assembly over the bill, saying it’s against the rights of Nigerians.

Gbajabiamila has also set up a 12-man committee to look into allegations that he and some members of the House collected $10 million bribe from a foreign sponsor to speedily pass the bill.

“The Control of Infectious Diseases Bill will be put forward to a public hearing where stakeholders’ 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 conscience,” he said. He, however, warned that the public hearing may be conducted in line with the COVID-19 guidelines.

“The social distancing guidelines under which this House and the whole country operates, for the time being, means that the usual format of public hearings is not tenable. 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.

Gbajabiamila also raised a committee to probe allegations that he and some members of the House collected $10 million bribe from a foreign sponsor to pass the bill.
The committee is chaired by Hon. Henry Nwawuba (PDP, Imo).

Reacting to the $10 million bribery allegation, the spokesperson of the House, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, had told THISDAY that the House could not fall for cheap blackmail.
He said the bill was still going through the legislative process and urged Nigerians to make their input through their representatives or during public hearing.