•Bars journalists from covering Bill’s public hearing
By Adedayo Akinwale and Udora Orizu
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that a lot of engagement in the proposed Infectious Diseases Bill brought forward a month ago for consideration has been ill-informed and outright malicious.
Gbajabiamila stated this on Wednesday in Abuja at the opening of the public hearing on the Bill to repeal the Quarantine Act and enact the Control of Infectious Diseases Act.
He emphasised that one month after the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill was first brought forward for consideration, the House has witnessed an unprecedented amount of engagement by a cross-section of the Nigerian public, adding that the House welcomed the enthusiastic participation of the citizens in the legislative process.
Gbajabiamila stated: “It is necessary to note that a lot of the engagement on this proposed legislation has been ill-informed and outright malicious. There are those in our society, who benefit from promoting the falsehood that every government action is cynical and every policy proposal must be the product of malignant influence.
“We must never succumb to the impulses that these elements represent, and we must reject them always as doing so is an act of excellent service to a nation we love and are beholden to.
“We look forward to producing final legislation that reflects our own best intentions as well as the considered contributions of all people of good conscience.”
The Speaker stressed that the proposed bill is a critical piece of legislation that deals with matters of public health that affect everyone.
According to him, “If we have learned one thing from the last few months, it is that public health issues can drastically change our lives in ways we cannot always predict, and yet must be prepared for.”
The Speaker said that the conversations that would hold at the public hearing on Wednesday and Thursday, as well as the numerous written contributions already received by the House would be considered towards improving the Bill.
He stressed that the proposed Bill is a legislative proposal that is imperfect, but would be improved substantially through interactions with stakeholders, civil society and citizen groups in pursuit of the common objective of achieving policy interventions that would enhance the wellbeing of all our people.
According to him, “I assure you of three things; the first is that no part of this Bill is the product of any external influence. The second is that we will not ignore your contributions and recommendations, as the House of Representatives is wholly committed to refining this Bill until we have a document that solves our present problems without creating new ones or exacerbating unforeseen challenges. And finally, I assure you that now, and always, our first commitment is to the Nigerian people, our fellow citizens, on whose behalf we hold office and in whose name we act.”
Meanwhile, the House barred journalists from covering the public hearing on the controversial bill.
Following criticisms that trailed the Bill, the Speaker had, on May 11th when he received some Civil Society Organisations in his office, announced that a public hearing would hold on the Bill, which would be open to submission of memorandum and position papers from members of the public.
However, when journalists turned up to cover the event, they were turned back by operatives of the Sergeant-at-Arms, who said it was only the Chairman, House Committee on Health Services, Tanko Sununu, that would clear journalists accredited to cover the activities of the House and access the public hearing.
The security personnel said they were told that only the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and Channels Television were invited to cover the public hearing, hence journalists from other media organisations cannot be allowed in.