The Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF) Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) yesterday kicked against the Infectious Disease Control Bill for which the National Assembly held a public hearing.
The bill to repeal the Quarantine Act and enact the Control of Infectious Disease Act passed second reading on the floor of the House on April 28 and was referred for Public Hearing.
The NLC represented by its President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, highlighted 17 grey areas in the bill.
Wabba, who spoke on behalf of three organisations NLC, Trade Union Congress (TUC) and ASCAB, said: “Having read through the Bill, the only reinforcing and overwhelming voice is that of dictatorship.
“In presenting this memorandum, we choose to uphold our concern that the claim of commitment to protection of public health and safety, does not turn out to be an excuse for the provision of a tool in the hand of an autocrat, empowered to ride roughshod over the fundamental rights of the Nigerian People.”
NGF was unsparing in its condemnation.
Chairman of the Forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, who represented other governors, said: “The Act gives governors very scant operational space to maneuver and regrettably, the proposed Bill took away even that.
“This Bill takes away the only authority the governors have to take specific steps and measures in their domains during an outbreak of an infectious disease.
“As far as the NGF is concerned the bill is undemocratic as it is in conflict with some aspects of the constitution and negates the provision of human rights.”
He agreed that the House may have presented the bill in the interest of the people due to the exigency of the times, but doubted the piece of legislation can be held up to the light of standard legislative analysis.
He argued the bill invests too much power on the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and takes away power from states and local governments
“The House of Representatives in the exercise of powers vested in it by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is in the process of enacting the Control of Infectious Disease Act 2020 (The Bill).
“The Bill in section 77 seeks to repeal the Quarantine Act of 1926 (The Act) which has become obsolete. The Bill when passed, would also repeal the Nigeria National Health Act, 2004, National Programme on Immunisation Act, Cap N71, LFN 2004, Environmental Health Officers (Registration ETC) 2002.
“The NGF posits that any disease with significant threat to public health that would require authorising measures that may potentially infringe on otherwise reserved human liberties, the proposed measures must take into account some key ethical considerations which include:
“Public Health necessity: the measures must be exercised on the basis of a confirmed or suspected threat to public health of the country Reasonable and effective means: the means by which these measures would be implemented must be effective to prevent or reduce spread.”
Also, NMA disagreed with many aspects of the bill, especially areas of compulsory invasive medical examination.
Its National President, Prof. Innocent Ujah faulted the provision of compulsory treatment or vaccination, saying it is against the ethics of the profession.