Court Summons Gbajabiamila, Malami over Infectious Disease Bill

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By Alex Enumah

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has summoned the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila to appear before it over the proposed infectious diseases bill.

Gbajabiamila alongside four other respondents are to appear before the court on May 20, 2020 to show cause why further hearing in the bill which has passed second reading at the lower chamber should not be stopped.

Justice Ojukwu issued the summon while delivering ruling in an exparte application by former Kogi West Senator, Dino Melaye.

The others are Clerk of the National Assembly, Clerk of the House of Representatives, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Inspector General of Police (IG).

Melaye, approached the Federal High Court to challenge the infectious diseases bill sponsored by the Speaker on the grounds that the bill if allowed would breach his fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.

He in addition filed a motion ex parte motion dated May 13, 2020, wherein he prayed the court for an Interim order directing parties in the suit to maintain status quo ante belum pending the hearing and determination of the application for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the applicant.

In a short ruling, Justice Ojukwu held that after a careful consideration of the averments in the supporting affidavit as well as the oral and written submission of Melaye’s lawyer, Mr. Okoro Nkemakolam, she came to the conclusion that the issues are weighty and made an order summoning the respondents.

“An order of this court is hereby made mandating the respondents to appear before this court on May 20, 2020, to show cause why the application of this applicant should not be granted.

“In effect it is the opinion of this court that the respondents be put on notice in this case,” she held.

Justice Ojukwu further stated that, “Should the respondents fail to attend court on the date stated for the hearing on this matter, the reliefs sought ex parte shall be granted.”

Melaye had on May 4 commenced move at the Federal High Court Abuja, to halt further hearing of the bill seeking to amend the Quarantine Act CAP Q2 LFN 2004.

Melaye is specifically asking the court to intervene by striking out certain section of the proposed bill which he claimed if passed would breach his fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.

The suit which was filed on his behalf by his lawyer, Mr. Okoro Nkemakolam on Monday, May 4, is predicated on seven grounds and supported by a 19 paragraphs affidavit deposed to by Senator Melaye himself.

“Except by the intervention of this honourable court, through this application for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of the Applicant, the fundamental rights of the Applicant would be breached if the offending provisions of the Bill are not deleted before the passage of the Bill by the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he told the court.

He added that the said Bill passed the 1st and 2nd reading at the House of Representative of the National Assembly of Nigeria on Tuesday April 28, 2020, with unimaginable speed, despite the lockdown and no known emergency which its provisions were intended to cure, in view of the fact that the federal government was already relaxing the lockdown.

“That I know as a matter of fact, that most of the provisions of the said Bill constitute a flagrant breach of my fundamental rights and or, are likely to breach my fundamental rights.

“That I know as a matter of fact that section 3(8) of the Bill which empowers the Director-General of the National Center for Disease Control, by himself or any officer under him or a police officer on his direction, to enter into any premises or gathering of people in an area declared by the president as a public health restricted zone, without a warrant, is clearly in breach of my fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and right to liberty of my human person,” Melaye claimed in his affidavit supporting the suit.

Other alleged offensive sections of the bill include those which empowers the DG of NCDC, to upon mere suspicion, that a person is infected with an infectious disease, and or recovered from an infectious disease, to arrest the person and detain him for as long as he deems necessary without a warrant or court order at any isolation centre of his choice breaches my fundamental rights liberty and dignity of human person.

“That I know as a matter of fact that section 19(5) of the Bill which makes the decision of the Minister of health final, directly deprives me of the right of access to the court of justice, contrary to the provisions of Article 7 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

“That I know as a matter of fact that section 23 of the Bill, which authorises or empowers the DG of NCDC, or an enforcement officer of his agency or police, to seize anybody walking on the street whom he merely suspects of having an infectious disease, without any warrant is likely to infringe upon my fundamental rights to the dignity of the human person and freedom of movement as provided for in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“That I also know as a matter of fact that section 30 of the said Bill, which makes vaccination, for no known specific disease, compulsory without my consent when I am either leaving or arriving in Nigeria, is likely to infringe upon my fundamental rights to privacy and dignity of the human person as provided for in sections 34 and 37 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

“That I know as a matter of fact that section 47 of the Bill, which empowers the DG of NCDC, to direct compulsory vaccination in an outbreak or a suspected outbreak is in breach of, and or likely to breach my fundamental rights to dignity of the human person and privacy”, Melaye claimed.

He therefore prayed the court for an order, “Directing the 1st -3rd Respondents to delete 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, as same are inconsistent with sections 33, 34,35,37,38 and 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999” as well as other international laws.

“An order of injunction restraining the respondents, whether, by themselves, their agents, employees, servants, privies and or howsoever called, from further proceeding with, or continuing with further debates with respect to sections

3(8),5(3),6,8,13,15,16,17,19,23,30 and 47 of the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020, which provisions breaches and or are likely to breach the fundamental rights of the Applicant as provided for sections 33, 34,35,37,38 and 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, and other international laws.