Gbajabiamila: Most Comments on Infectious Diseases Bill Ill-informed, Outright Malicious

Femi Gbajabiamila

Adedayo Akinwale and Udora Orizu in Abuja

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has stated that a lot of engagement on the proposed Infectious Diseases Bill brought forward a month ago for consideration has been ill-informed and outright malicious.

Gbajabiamila stated this yesterday 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 had 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: “However, 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 which affects 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 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 the people.

Meanwhile, the House has barred journalists from covering the ‘public’ hearing on the controversial bill.

Following criticisms that trailed the bill, the Speaker on May 11, when he received some civil society organisations in his office, announced that a public hearing would be held 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 House Committee on Health Services Chairman, Tanko Sununu, that would clear journalists accredited to cover the activities of the House as well as access to the public hearing.

The security agents said they were told that only the Nigerian Television (NTA) and Channels Television were invited to cover the public hearing, hence journalists from other media organisations cannot be allowed in.