Court Did Not Halt Consideration of Infectious Diseases Bill, House Insists

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By Udora Orizu

The House of Representatives has debunked reports that a Federal High Court in Abuja has halted it from continuing with the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill.

It would be recalled that Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, summoned the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and four others to appear before the court on May 20 to prove why further hearing on the bill, which has passed its second reading at the lower chamber, should not be stopped.

However, the Spokesperson of the House, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, has clarified that the alleged reports were malicious misinterpretations of the decision of the court.

Kalu explained that the applicant, by way of a motion exparte, sought a court order suspending the consideration of the bill by the House, but the court, however, in the interest of justice and fair hearing, declined to grant the reliefs sought by applicant in order to enable the respondents in the case to appear before it and enter a defence.

He said: “The House of Representatives notes with dismay the erroneous reports by certain print and online media outfits, in what appears to be willful or malicious misinterpretations of the decision of the court in suit no FHC/ABJ/CS/463/2020 on May 13, 2020, asserting that a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the House to suspend the ongoing process of the consideration of the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020 (the “Bill”); a misrepresentation of facts which has in turn misled various other media outfits and the general public.

“While the House encourages the public and all media outfits to verify and refer to the certified true copy of the court’s order in all further social commentary or report on the subject matter, it has become necessary to set the record straight.”

Kalu also reproduced the court’s decision in the above mentioned suit for the purpose of clarity.

It reads: “Upon hearing this Motion Ex-parte as moved by learned counsel to the applicant and upon careful consideration of the averments in the affidavit in support, exhibits attached and the written and oral address of learned counsel, the court is of the view that bearing in mind the weighty averments in the affidavit in support which are intended to stay the legislative actions of the respondents in regard to the Bill in disputation and the exigencies of the times (that is to say the COVID-19 pandemic) and the attendant hysteria in the polity, the court is of the opinion, that it is in the interest of justice to hear the respondents before making a long term decision in this case.”

He, therefore, said that “it is unfortunate that the purport of the interim order was wrongly reported. The House, therefore, wishes to put the order of the court in proper perspective and state that the act of legislation is a sacred and constitutional responsibility which should not be subjected to flimsy or superficial reportage in the interest of our democracy.”