By Alex Enumah
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday refused to stop the House of Representatives from deliberating on the Infectious Diseases Bill currently before the lawmakers.
Justice Ojukwu turned down the request to halt proceedings in the bill at the lower chamber because doing so is not justiciable, and accordingly truck out the suit instituted by former Senator Dino Melaye challenging the propriety of the Control of Infectious Disease Bill 2020.
Melaye had challenged the bill initiated by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, on the grounds that the proposed bill is inconsistent with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
Those dragged to court in respect of the bill included the National Assembly, Clerk of the House of Representatives, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Inspector General of Police (IG).
Melaye also predicated his action on the grounds that the bill if passed into law will breach his fundamental rights to own property among others.
Specifically, he questioned section 13 of the proposed bill which empowers the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to order the arrest of anybody suspected to have Covid-19 and refuses to make himself available for medical examination.
The applicant also queried the power of the NCDC DG to take over anybody’s house and convert it into an isolation centre without an order of court.
However, delivering ruling in a preliminary objection against the suit argued by Dr Kayode Ajulo on behalf of the speaker, Justice Ojukwu agreed that Melaye’s case is not justiciable for now.
Justice Ojukwu also agreed with Ajulo that what Melaye complained against was a draft of a bill that has not been subjected to hearing and public debate by the House of Representatives.
The judge said that the draft bill for now has no binding force of law that can be held against anybody, adding that such a draft can only be litigated upon when finally passed into law and accented to by the president.
However, the judge agreed that Melaye has sufficient reason to fear that his fundamental rights would be infringed upon but said that for now, there is no cause of action since the contentious draft bill cannot be said to be conclusive in character.
“From the clear and understanding of the position of law, the draft bill complained against by the applicant is not enjoying binding effect of the law.
“The draft bill can only be said to be at embryo stage and granting the reliefs sought by the applicant at this stage will open floodgates of litigations that may hinder the discharge of functions by the National Assembly,” Justice Ojukwu said.
Consequently, the judge struck out the case for being incompetent and lacking in merit.