Court Declines to Stop Deliberation on Infectious Disease Bill

Dino Melaye

Alex Enumah in Abuja

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court wednesday declined to restrain the House of Representatives from considering the Infectious Disease Bill, sponsored by Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.

The court’s refusal was a sequel to the failure of the plaintiff, Senator Dino Melaye, to serve court processes on the respondents as ordered by the court last week.

Melaye, who represented Kogi West in the Senate until 2019, had approached the court on May 4 to challenge the bill on the ground that if allowed, it would breach his fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.

He, in addition, filed a motion ex-parte dated May 13, 2020, praying 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 his fundamental rights suit.

However, the court in a short ruling last week had directed him to put the respondents on notice, adding that the respondents must appear in the court yesterday to show cause why further proceedings in the bill should not be halted.

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

When the matter came up yesterday, the clerks of both the National Assembly and the House of Representatives as well as the AGF were absent from court and not represented by their lawyers.

However, a lawyer, Mr. Kayode Ajulo, who announced appearance for the speaker, said Gbajabiamila was yet to be served with any process, or court order in respect of the suit.

Reacting, Melaye’s lawyer, Mr. Nkemakolam Okoro, urged the court to order parties to maintain the status quo in order to protect the subject matter and prevent a situation of foisting a “fait accompli” on the court.
In refusing this request, however, Justice Ojukwu stated that her order of last week summoning the respondents to show cause why they should not be restrained from taking further steps on the bill was predicated on the service of all the respondents with the required court documents.
“Since the condition precedent has not been met, I would rather hold that the matter proceeds to the hearing,” the judge ruled.

While ordering that the speaker be served through Ajulo, Justice Ojukwu adjourned till June 1 for hearing in the main suit.
Melaye, who is currently challenging the election of Senator Smart Adeyemi at the Kogi State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, in the main suit is asking the court to intervene by striking out certain sections of the proposed bill, which he claimed if passed would breach his fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
According to the applicant, sections 3(8),5(3),6,8,13,15,16,17,19,23,30 and 47 of the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020, breach and or are likely to breach his fundamental rights as provided for in sections 33, 34,35,37,38 and 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Articles 4, 6,7,10,11,12 and 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, Articles 2(3),7,8,9,12,17,21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,1976, Articles 3,5,8,9,10,12,13,17 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,1948.
“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.