Infectious Disease Bill: Reps to hold two-day public hearing

• As CSOs task Senate on passage of Emergency Economic Stimulus bill

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, has assured that transparency and accountability will be upheld in the conduct of the public hearing stage of the Control of Infectious Disease Bill, 2020.

The Speaker, who gave the assurance in Abuja while receiving some Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), explained that the proposed public hearing, which is expected to take place in the next few weeks, would be for two days and will be physical and open to submission of memorandum and position papers from members of the public.

Hon Gbajabiamila, who observed that the effects of the COVID-19 disease during and after its outbreak are of paramount concern to the House, assured that the House would step up its oversight responsibility on issues and palliative programmes around Covid-19.

“On the Control of Infectious Disease Bill, we are aware that many of the comments it generated are genuine, some were political and some were clearly based on the misunderstanding of the bill but we cannot ignore any and that is why we are taking it to public hearing.

“It is going to be conducted over two days and because we don’t want to endanger anyone’s life, all the Covid-19 protocols would be observed in a hall that is supposed to take 300 people, we will have about 40.

“Those who could not make it the first day would have the opportunity to be there the second day.

“The public hearing would be physical because this is all about transparency and accountability. We don’t want to endanger the lives of Nigerians. It will be beamed live on TV and Radio but those that can not make it to the public hearing will have the opportunity of sending their memorandum to the House.

“The Bill that will be passed by the House will be the aggregate of the submissions of Nigerians.”

He also said the timeous passage of the first Economic Stimulus Bill was borne out of the urgency to address the economic implication of the pandemic on the country

“The Bill is meant to among other things avoid job loss of Nigerians and to ensure tax relief for Nigerians and their employees during these times. It also seeks to ensure the availability of funds for protective materials and sensitive materials needed by frontline health workers in their line of duty.

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“I’m glad that the people have seen the necessity in the stimulus initiative which is the work of parliament and if people observe what is going on around the world, it is the legislature that designs the economic stimulus, the executive has the implementing power.

“The Economic Stimulus Bill is essential because it affects the revenue distribution for the nation, and anything that has to do with national revenue begins at the National Assembly.”

The Speaker added that “in a few weeks, we will set up a Post-COVID-19 response team, to look at how we react after the pandemic. The Police Act would be laid next Tuesday for consideration because to reform the Police is most necessary.

“We are also working on the codification of the Nigerian Social Investments Programs so that it is not subject to the discretion of any officer because that is what obtains in other countries.

“On the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan, we have our work cut out for us, oversight of the loan and other Covid-19 donations will be more vigorous,” Hon Gbajabiamila said.

Earlier, the leader of the delegation, Clement Nwankwo of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), commended the Speaker and the House for rising to the occasion by its many efforts to proffer solutions for the novel pandemic during and after its outbreak.

“The leadership of the National Assembly have been doing a great job, first to say is how the House of Representatives has shown leadership in consultation pertaining the COVID-19 era and particularly taken a lot of positive steps to address some of the issues of concern.

“Particularly on the fact that the Speaker has sponsored a couple of Bills, especially the Economy Stimulus Bill, looking at some of the raised concerns.

“We also appreciate the timeliness in the Bills and hope the implementation will be as efficient and expedited as the citizens expect.”

On his part, Executive Director, Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YAIGA), Samson Itodo, expressed noted that though the House has passed the bill, it has not received the required attention at the Senate.

To this end, he urged the Senate to expedite action on Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill which seeks to address issues concerning the survival of the organised and informal sectors of the Nigerian economy for its eventual transmission to the President for assent.


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