Infectious Diseases bill: Governors kick against President, NCDC overbearing powers

•It’s a potentially dangerous piece of legislation, unconstitutional – Falana • Compulsory invasive medical examination, treatment or vaccination unethical ― NMA

Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) on Wednesday kicked against overbearing powers conferred on the President and Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020.

The NGF Chairman, Governor Fayemi of Ekiti State who stated this at the open of the public hearing on the Repeal of Quarantine Act and enactment of Control of Infectious Diseases bill, however, harped on the need to give requisite powers on the State Governors to declare a place to be an infectious area.

Specifically, the Governors recommended that the “Provisions along the lines of section 8 of the Quarantine Act should be inserted in the new Bill to allow State Governors the power to declare a place to be an infectious area and to make regulations and directives towards prevention and further spread of an infectious disease within the State, where the President is yet to do so.

“It is the position of the NGF that powers beyond those granted by S. 8 of the Act should be conferred on the Governors so as to strengthen their ability to act in this regard. Governors should be conferred the power to declare any place within their State an infected area within the contemplation of the Act.

“State Governments should be given powers to establish States Centre for Disease Control and appoint Directors to work with the NCDC as its sub-national units (very much like the Federal Ministries and their State equivalents) to adequately tackle any outbreak of infectious disease in the States.

“The discretionary powers of the President and the Director General of the NCDC should be reviewed with the aim of spreading same among the authorities of the three tiers of Government. This would ensure that everyone is adequately involved in the efforts to confront any outbreak of an infectious disease.

“Provisions like S. 21 (5) that are inconsistent with the Constitution should be expunged as they are without more, unlawful and cannot stand scrutiny,” Governor Fayemi urged.

In the same vein, Interim Chairman, Alliance on Survival of COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), Barr. Femi Falana who presented the Group’s position paper explained that: “having carefully perused the provisions of the Bill, we can confidently say that we consider it a potentially dangerous piece of legislation that we recommend should be completely rejected in toto. For convenience, we divide the disturbing implications of the Bill into two, and make an attempt at addressing the constitutional, legal and policy issues arising therefrom.”

Barr. Falana who described the bill as “smacks of dictatorship”, observed that the bill “only reinforcing and overwhelming voice is that of dictatorship. The Bill grants unfettered discretionary and overbearing powers to the Director-General of Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, the Police and Health Officers. The reproduction of some of the provisions of the Bill would be helpful, in driving home this point,” he urged.

He maintained that “the Bill is superfluous, potentially illegal and unconstitutional,” maintained that the proposed legislation “poses a danger to the human rights of the Nigerian People.

“We acknowledge that all rights are important and inseparable, but some are so fundamental that they have attained the stature of being the hallmark of constitutional democracy. State actors and fellow citizens ought not to put fundamental rights in jeopardy but must duly observe, uphold and respect them. Concerning fundamental rights, all actors must maintain utmost self-restraint. Amongst these rights are the right to life and the means of sustaining life, the Right to Liberty, Freedom of Association, the Right to Ownership of moveable and immovable property, as well as the Right to the Dignity of the human person.

“We recall that these rights historically were not conferred gratuitously by governments, whether of the slave-owning type, or that under the control of feudal lords, and even the so-called modern State. Records confirm that the history of the struggle for human rights is one of gargantuan battles against absolutism and arbitrariness, commencing precisely from that moment when society became divided into the classes of oppressors and the oppressed and at that time when subjugation reared its head in society.

“We are however fully cognizant of the contending argument that no rights are absolute, in the sense that exceptions may be created in the law, which are deemed necessary for the protection of the public interest, public health and safety.

“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.

“We observe that the powers conferred on the Director-General of the National Centre for Disease Control are so pervasive as to touch on every aspect of the life of a citizen, and that no objective standards have been created for preventing arbitrariness in the claimed exercise of these powers; further that there is generally no room allowed for judicial scrutiny which makes the bill in our view a recipe for tyranny.

“In the hands of a power-drunk autocrat, the Bill if passed into law, as it is, would pose a clear and present danger to the realization of an ordered society founded on the rule of just laws, which we, the Nigerian People, continue to yearn for,” he stressed.

On its part, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), opposed the provisions for compulsory invasive medical examination, treatment or vaccination, as it against medical ethics despite the alluring appeal that it protects public health.

The NMA position paper which was co-signed by its National President and Secretary General, Prof. A. O. Ujah and Dr. Phillips Ekpe also called for inclusion of new section 72 for the mandatory provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), life insurance and risk allowances and not leave it to regulation or the discretion of authorities.

While declaring the public hearing open, Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill has witnessed an unprecedented amount of engagement by a cross-section of the Nigerian public within one month of its introduction.

He, however, argued that “a lot of the engagement on this proposed legislation has been ill-informed and outrightly 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.”




Buy and read digital replicas of your TRIBUNE titles by subscribing through E-VENDING

Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Hit 13,464 After 663 New Infections
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed 663 new cases of COVID-19 in the country, bringing the total number to 13,464… Read full story

Olu Jacobs Is Alive, Says Lala Akindoju
As anxiety over the rumoured death of veteran actor, Olu Jacobs, heightened in the last two hours, popular actress and a close member of the family, Lala Akindoju, has debunked the death rumour. Rumours of the demise of Jacobs were rife on social media platforms but Akindoju said the news should be disregarded as Jacobs was doing fine… Read full story

Edo 2020: APC Inaugurates Screening Committee
The All Progressives Congress (APC) National Working Committee, on Tuesday, inaugurated screening and appeal Committees ahead of June 22 governorship primary in Edo State. Professor Jonathan Ayuba will serve as Chairman of the Screening Committee, while Professor Abubakar Fari will lead the Appeals committee… Read full story

Senate To Investigate BPE Over Non-Performance Of Paper Mills
Senate Committee on Privatisation has been mandated by the Senate to investigate operations and non-performance of paper mills sold by Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) to private owners… Read full story

Reps Halt Sale Of NECO Buildings, TSB, International Trade Fair
The House of Representatives, on Tuesday, directed the supervisory Boards of Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), International Trade Fair Complex, as well as management of National Examination Council (NECO) to halt the sale and concession of all properties within and outside the country, pending the conclusion of the… Read full story

CEO Tonimas Oil And Gas, Anthony Enukeme Is Dead
The Chief executive officer of Tonimas Oil and Gas, Chief Anthony Obiagboso Enukeme is dead. Chief Enukeme, who is also APGA board of trustee member passed on at the early hours of Monday… Read full story

Court Declares Aguma Rivers APC Acting Chair
A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has declared Hon Igo Aguma, the Acting Chairman of the All Progressives Congress in the state. The court also compelled the party to allow all members of the party loyal to Sen Magnus Abe, who purchased from for the congresses of the party in 2018 to take part in the process… Read full story

COVID-19: Gombe Taskforce Raises Alarm Over Upsurge In Positive Cases, Cry For Lack Of Funds To Operate
In his periodic update on the COVID-19 pandemic situation in the state, Chairman of the Gombe State COVID-19 Taskforce, Professor Idris Mohammed, has raised an alarm of community spread of the infection… Read full story

EDITORIAL: Bandits On The Prowl
LAST week, Katsina State governor, Honourable Aminu Bello Masari, vowed that he would no longer negotiate with bandits in the state. His grouse was that they had reneged on an agreement reached with the state government. According to him, they promised to repent and leave the North-West, but “they did not… Read full story

You might also like

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. AcceptRead More