Bill on Quarantine Order for Second Reading at Senate on Tuesday

The Senate in session

Deji Elumoye in Abuja

The Protection Against Infectious Diseases Bill which passed through first reading at the Senate last Tuesday and seeks to empower the National Assembly with the right to annul the President’s Quarantine Order will go for second reading next Tuesday.

The bill sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, is divided into six parts with 78 clauses, and is similar to the controversial one introduced last week in the House of Representatives by the Speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, which had since passed first and second reading.

The bill was stalled after its first reading at plenary last Tuesday as former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, raised objection to the bill, saying he had not seen a draft of the bill and won’t want the Senate to go the way of the House.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment had said: “Recall that we have a controversial bill in the House on quarantine act amendment. So I want to be sure that we don’t go the same route.”

Sources told THISDAY yesterday evening that copies of the bill had since been circulated among the senators and all appear set for the Red Chamber to take the second reading of the bill once Senate resumes plenary next Tuesday.

One of the sources, who is a ranking North-west senator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the sponsor of the bill, Senator Utazi, would be expected to lead the debate on the bill followed by contributions by interested senators across party divide.

Highlights of the bill include a clause which empowers the National Assembly to annul a quarantine order made by a sitting President. Clause 3 (7) provides that “if a resolution is passed by both Houses of the National Assembly annulling the order or declaration, it shall cease to have effect, notwithstanding subsection (3) or (4) (whichever is applicable), but without prejudice to anything previously done by virtue thereof.”

The bill also provides for compulsory vaccination of children shortly after they are born. Clause 45 (1) provided that “the parent or guardian of every child in Nigeria shall ensure that the child is vaccinated against the diseases set out in the Fourth Schedule. “(2) the Registrar of Births and Deaths shall immediately after the registration of the birth of a child, issue to the parent or guardian of the child a notice requiring the child to be vaccinated against the diseases to which this section applies.”

The bill also provides that anybody guilty of tampering with the mark of an infectious disease area will be liable to a N100,000 fine. It is contained in Clause 22 which provides that “a designated health officer may cause to be placed any mark on or about a premises in which any case of infectious disease has occurred for the purpose of denoting the occurrence of such disease, and may keep such mark affixed for a period of 14 days, and any person removing or obliterating any such mark without the authority of a health officer commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000.00 or to a community service as may be the determined by the Magistrate.”

The proposed law also empowers health officers and the police to take any action they deem necessary to ensure compliance. Clause 15 (4) states that “a designated health officer or a police officer may take any action that is necessary to give effect to an order under subsection (3).”

The bill further stipulated that only cremated ashes should be allowed into the country. Clause 40 (1) states that “no corpse or human remains or bones other than cremated ashes, shall be brought into or trans-shipped or exported from Nigeria, unless accompanied by a medical certificate or other evidence showing the name of the deceased, the date and cause of death and the measures adopted to preserve the body.”