Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of an Abuja Division of the Federal High Court yesterday refused to stop the House of Representatives from deliberating on the Infectious Diseases Bill.
Justice Ojukwu turned down the request to halt proceedings in the bill because doing so is not justiciable, and accordingly struck out the suit instituted by a former lawmaker, representing Kogi West, 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 provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The plaintiffs in the suit include 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, would breach his fundamental rights to own property, among others.
Melaye 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 Director-General to take over anybody’s house and convert it into an isolation centre without an order of the court.
However, 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.
The judge said the draft bill, for now, has no binding force of law that could be held against anybody, adding that such a draft could only be litigated upon when finally passed into law and assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, the judge agreed that Melaye has sufficient reason to fear that his fundamental rights would be infringed upon, but said for now, there’s no cause of action since the contentious draft bill could not be said to be conclusive in character.
“From the clear and understanding of the position of law, the draft bill complained against is not enjoying the binding effect of the law.
“The draft bill can only be said to be at the 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,” she added.
The judge struck out the case for being incompetent and lacking in merit.