Sonnie Ekwowusi argues that the Infectious Disease Bill is unnecessary

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You may be well aware that two bills are presently pending before the National Assembly, Abuja. The first bill is the Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 pending before the House of Representatives. This bill is solely being sponsored by House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila. The second bill is the Nigerian Emergency Health Bill, 2020 pending before the Senate. This bill is sponsored by 104 out of the 109 Senators at the Senate.

The two bills are being given expeditious hearing by both chambers of the National Assembly. It is instructive that the two bills pending before the two Houses are substantially similar. One wonders what informed the duplication in the two chambers. Besides, American multi-billionaire and African population controller, Bill Gates, has been fingered as bankrolling the Infectious Diseases Bill 2020. Paradoxically, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is vehemently opposed to the Infectious Diseases Bill 2020. The NCDC says it is not privy to the bill.

In fact, the Director-General of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, recently said that it is unwise to sponsor such a bill at this time of the coronavirus pandemic when Nigerians are still preoccupied taking precautions to avoid being infected by the virus. In his own words, ”I am personally not in favour of drafting a bill in the middle of a crisis”. Now, if the NCDC and Dr. Ihekweazu are objecting to the bill, why is the National Assembly bent on processing a bill that would empower NCDC and Dr. Ihekweazu? We gather that the COVID-19 Vaccine would be produced in 2022. So, why is the National Assembly in a hurry to pass in 2020 a law that would regulate COVID-19 Vaccine that would be produced in 2022 or may never be produced at all?

Aside the above slur, the entire bill is replete with multiple draconian sections that infringe on your fundamental human rights as enshrined in our 1999 Constitution and African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. This is why yesterday more than 84 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Nigeria formally lodged their protest in Abuja asking for the bill to be withdrawn.

Also yesterday, about 15 CSOs in Lagos organized a Press Conference at Ikeja, Lagos demanding for the immediate withdrawal of the bill. Apart from fragrantly violating the right to private and family life, right to freedom of conscience and religion, right to peaceful assembly, right to freedom of movement, right to dignity of human person as enshrined in our 1999 Constitution and the African Charter, the CSOs argue that sections 4, 5 and 6 of the bill violate the right to privacy, confidentiality between doctors-patients. Can you imagine the bill granting nebulous and arbitrary powers to the Health Minster, health officers, diseases control agents and enforcement officers to arrest any person, demolish buildings which in their views are helping to spread infectious diseases? Section 15(1) (2) (3 a-d) of the bill empowers the health minister to declare any premises isolation area; and the DG of NCDC to impose movement restriction within the area. Section 20 empowers the DG of NCDC to stop any meeting or gathering likely to lead to increase in the spread of infectious diseases.

Section 24 of the Bill empowers any enforcement officer to arrest you in the street if he thinks that you are suffering from COVID-19 or any infectious diseases. Section 25 empowers any enforcement officer to obtain a court order to destroy any building in which he thinks a case of COVID-19 or infectious disease has occurred. So, the bill is in favour of the kind of jungle justice recently wrought by Rivers State Governor Ezenwo Wike when he ordered the demolition of some hotels for allegedly violating the lockdown order. Section 47 of the bill stipulates that parents must vaccinate their babies. Sections 48, 49, 51 stipulate that in the event of outbreak of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 or other diseases in an area or whenever you can be arrested anywhere and be given compulsory vaccination with or without your consent. Above all, the Bill is a surplussage. It is aimed at duplicating many existing laws in Nigeria. Our challenge in Nigeria over the years is not lack of laws: it is the enforcement of existing laws.

More importantly, the Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 was copied verbatim from Singapore. Commenting on this, the London Times, May 18 2020 writes that the Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 is 98% carbon copy of the Singapore’s Diseases Act 1977 which was enacted 43 years ago. The questions are: Are the social realities in Singapore same with that of Nigeria? No. So, why must our legislators ignore the social realities in Nigeria and proceed to Singapore to copy their Diseases Act 1977? What stops our lawmakers from brainstorming and producing a bill that conforms to the social realities in Nigeria? What is even baffling is that despite the London Times indictment, Gbajabiamila is rationalizing the plagiarism.

Ostensibly in reaction to the aforementioned drawbacks of the bill, the Joint Committees on Health Services, Health Institution and Justice of the House of Representatives has recently advertised that a Public Hearing on the bill shall hold on Wednesday 10th June 2020 and 11th June 2020 respectively at the National Assembly, Abuja. However, nothing has been heard on when the Senate will conduct its own Public Hearing on the Nigerian Emergency Health Bill, 2020. The public is encouraged to actively participate in the said public hearing to ensure that this bill is defeated. The 1999 Constitution stipulates that “sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derive all its power and authority”.

Therefore the National Assembly must exercise its law-making function in line with the aspirations of the Nigerian people. Vox Populi Vox Dei (The voice of the people is the voice of God). Section 4 (1) (2) of the 1999 Constitution empowers our National Assembly to make good laws for the people of Nigeria. Therefore neither Bill Gates nor Gbajabiamila should pressurize or coerce the people of Nigeria to endorse the Infectious Diseases Bill 2020. Only recently an Italian lawmaker Sara Cunial delivered a speech on the floor of the Italian parliament passionately appealing to her fellow Italian legislators to reject any plans for compulsory vaccination against Covid-19. She told them that Bill Gates is one of the main culprits behind the vaccination drive, if not the pandemic itself. She accused Bill Gates of sterilizing millions of women in Africa and paralyzing hundreds of thousands of children in India.

Also recently the US Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgment in the case against the America Centre for Disease Control, Bill Gates, Anthony Fauci and some multi-billion Pharmaceutical Companies that there is no proof that the federally-approved vaccines have been tested and safe for human beings. The court also ruled against compulsory vaccination for everybody. I would like to commend the aforesaid Cunial speech and the US Supreme Court judgment to Nigerian federal legislators. They should allow the Nigerian people to freely assess the Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 in the light of the socio-cultural, political and economic and religious realities of the Nigerian people. No attempt should be made to impose the Bill on the Nigerian people. After all, government exists to serve the citizens not vice-versa. Therefore the people have a right to reject the Infectious Diseases Bill 2020.