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Infectious Diseases Bill will be subjected to public hearing before final passage – Reps


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SPEAKER of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Tuesday denied reports that the proposed Control of Infectious Disease Bill will infringe on people’s rights.

He said the bill meant to strengthen the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was conceived in the public interest and would be subjected to public hearing before its final passage, contrary to popular concerns.

Addressing his colleagues at the resumption of a plenary session on the floor of the House, Gbajabiamila acknowledged that since the bill was introduced last week, there has been a barrage of criticisms against it, with allegations of sinister motives.

The lawmaker emphasised that draft copy of the bill would be made open for Nigerians to give their contributions and express their worries, adding that members of the House would never contemplate doing anything that would jeopardise the wellbeing of the citizens.

“This House of Representatives will never take any action that purposes to bring harm to any Nigerian here at home or abroad. As we have thus far shown by our conduct, the resolutions and actions we take in this 9th House of Representatives will always be in the best interests of the Nigerian people who elected us, and no one else,” Gbajabiamila said.

“In the recent uproar, certain fundamental truths have been lost and are worth remembering. Our current framework for the prevention and management of infectious diseases is obsolete and no longer fit for purpose.”

The infectious disease bill has been a subject of controversy among stakeholders, especially Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

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A coalition of over 40 NGOs also had accused the lawmakers of drafting a bill that could override functions of the security operatives, accord excess power to the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

But the lawmakers insisted that bill was designed to help NCDC perform its duties as expected and to prevent likely reoccurrence of the outbreak.

According to the House members, Nigeria is still vulnerable to infectious diseases, while the laws it currently relies on to manage public health diseases such as the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) is obsolete.

The inability of the appropriate authorities to ensure compliance with the NCDC guideline, the lawmakers argued further led to the spread of the disease.

“….We have had people break out from isolation centres, and others, who fully aware of their status chose to travel across state lines on public transport,” he added.

In a statement by Lanre Lasisi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Speaker, the number of those currently infected by the coronavirus has continued to rise alongside the number of those who have died.

However, he noted that there is no timeline for when the disease would pass, “and nobody can predict when the next public health crisis will occur, just as nobody predicted the present predicament.”

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“We cannot tie our own hands in the fight against this disease.”

Olugbenga is an Investigative Reporter with The ICIR. Email address: [email protected] Twitter handle: @OluAdanikin

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