Reps push devolution of powers, empower states to enact quarantine law

• back establishment of Infectious Diseases Centre in Kaduna

Members of the House of Representatives expressed overwhelming support for the bill which seeks to reduce the powers of the Federal Government by transferring the quarantine from the Executive Legislative List to the Concurrent Legislative List.

The lawmakers expressed support during the consideration of the general principles of the bill which seeks to alter the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which was sponsored by Hon Abbass Tajudeen.

Also at plenary, the House passed through Second Reading a bill which seeks to establish Kaura Hospital and Infectious Disease Centre, in Kaduna State.

In his lead debate, Hon Mukhtar Chawai explained that the facility of Kauru Federal Hospital shall serve as the Medical Centre subject to the provisions of this proposed bill, which seeks to establish the management of the Kauru Federal Hospital, a Board of Management which shall be constituted and have the functions and powers set out in this Act.

As provided in clause 3 of the bill, the Board shall consist of: a Chairman, Chief Medical Director, Director of Clinical Services, Director of Infectious Diseases, Director of Finance & Administration, Director of Maintenance, Representative of the President, Federal Ministry of Health the National Centre for Disease Control, Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Pediatric Association of Nigeria, National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives and one Person to represent the public interest.

Part II of the bill provides for the functions and powers of the Board to equip, maintain and operate the Kauru Federal Hospital so as to provide facilities for diagnosis, curative, promotive and rehabilitative services in medical treatment. Construct, equip, maintain and operate such training schools and similar institutions, as the Board considers necessary for proving the Kauru Federal Hospital at all times a proper staff of the Kauru Federal Hospital technicians and nurses, construct, equip, maintain and operate such clinics, out-patient departments, laboratories, research or experimental stations and other like institutions as the Board consider necessary for the efficient functioning of the Kauru Federal Hospital.

Speaking further on the provisions of the bill, Hon Tajudeen observed that the Nigerian quarantine act was set up by the colonial master, which aimed at regulating the quarantine and makes other provisions for preventing introduction into and spread into Nigeria and the transmission of infectious disease.

He observed that the Act was amended in 1954 with a view to empower State Governors to hold similar powers within their States similar to the powers which the President of the Republic of Nigeria enjoys under the Act.

According to him, the amendment referred to is captured under section 8 of the Quarantine laws which empowers the State Governors to make regulations at the subnational level.

“The essence of this bill is just to confer constitutional authority on State Governors to enact laws on quarantine as it affects them. The benefits of the bill include among others: devolution of constitutional powers to enact laws on quarantine from the exclusive authority of the Federal Government to the State Government, in line with the principle of federalism as enshrined in the Constitution,” as well as “enable the State Government to develop Institutional structure, mechanism and capacity to manage contagious diseases instead of relying on Federal Government only,” he noted.

In his intervention, the Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechuckwu tasked the House with the need to amend other relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution that will guarantee devolution of powers.

“I think this bill to amend the Constitution regarding quarantine provisions comes within the range of actually making it possible for us to have a handsome approach in the management of communicable diseases.

“You will observe that the issue we had regarding the Covid-19 pandemic was essentially challenging because we couldn’t domicile jurisdiction. The expectation was that the President was going to act, the Governors were acting but the disease was about the front-door. So it is very important that when we enact laws, particularly the grundnorm we should be as specific as possible, as definite as possible so that we can anticipate it shortly and have a handsome approach to it.

“So in this wise, I would say that my colleague who sponsored this bill is acting in the spirit of our expectations, devolution of powers. I hope that other sections of the Constitution that require this treatment will be treated on an equal basis.”

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