CHUKWUKA Utazi, the senator sponsoring Infectious Diseases Control Bill 2020 says the upper chamber of the National Assembly would go ahead to consider the Bill despite concerns for violation of human rights contained in it.
The Senate has scheduled a public hearing on the Bill to hold on Wednesday, May 10.
“The bill is very necessary and timely because there are gaps that are existing and we need to fill them, Utazi said Tuesday evening during a Citizen Town Hall meeting organised to garner views on the Bill, aired on the Channels Television.
He explained the rationale behind the bill, noting that there is a need for a legal framework as the country cannot continue to depend on executive order, one after the other.
“It’s totally wrong, this is democracy, we are not in a military regime where the executive would make laws for the people, the legislative is there and that is what we want to do, we want to take up our job and do what we ought to do,” Utazi noted.
He said the senate has consulted with relevant stakeholders and “no matter what, upper chamber is going ahead with the bill.”
“In pursuing this matter, we don’t have to continue waiting, we have consulted. Let everyone who wants to make an input come over and bring an opinion, because no matter what, we are going ahead with it,” Utazi said.
At the Town Hall meeting, members of civil society organisations, lawyers and representatives of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) expressed their views on the proposed Infectious Diseases Control Bill.
Bukky Shonibare, Executive Director, Girl Child Africa, who was part of the meeting emphasised the need to scrutinise the bill in order to see to what extent it promotes, protects and respects human rights.
Shonibare maintained that the Civil Society Organisations would raise concerns if any proposed bill would violate human rights in the country.
She disclosed that an analysis of the Infectious Diseases Control Bill 2020 has revealed that not less than seven fundamental human rights that have been guaranteed in Nigerian constitution are violated in it.
“If you do an analysis of the bill, you’ll find out that at least seven fundamental human rights that are guaranteed in our constitution would be violated,” she said.
Femi Falana, human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who joined the meeting via Skype described the bill as illegal.
“My views on the bill are that it’s superfluous, unnecessary, unwarranted and unconstitutional therefore it should not be passed,” Falana said.
He posited that the bill is bound to fail ‘because if it is passed, it is going to be challenged.’
” I would like to suggest that the National Assembly to seek sound legal advise so that we do not waste precious resources on a law that is likely to fail or declared null and void,” Falana said.
Henry Ewunono, head of advocacy at the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), , said if the National Assembly has decided to proceed with the bill without consulting, the NMA would not be part of it.
However, he insisted that the bill is necessary because there is no law that addresses the excesses of some citizens refusing quarantine.
“Is it not time to have a law to curtail the excesses of the so called VIPs, people who brought in this disease that is now ravaging the country,” he argued.
On the issue of infringement on fundamental human rights of freedom of movement, Ayo Obe a legal practitioner said if a person has an infectious disease, then the person should not be allowed to go about and infect others.
“To say it is against the fundamental human rights doesn’t really answer the question because we all don’t want to be infected,” Obe said.
Osai Ojigho, Country Director of Amnesty International in Nigeria questioned the legality of the bill.
She said beyond the infringement of human right, the part of the bill that says a person could be forcibly arrested, quarantined and vaccinated is worrisome noting that it cannot be challenged by anyone.
“You cannot even take it to the court for review, you cannot challenge the power of the Director General which means that your right for a review doesn’t even exist, No individual or institution should have such power,” Ojigho noted.
She said on the part of Amnesty international, the bill as it is should not stand, and that AI demands a complete overhaul.