With the Covid-19 pandemic affecting every country around the globe, governments of different countries are trying to make laws that will help protect the lives of citizens and also curb the spread of the virus. However, the Speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR), Femi Gbajabiamila, the Chairman, House Committee on Health Institutions, Pascal Obi, and Chairman of the Committee on Health Services, Tanko Sununu, have sponsored the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 in the HoR.
The bill seeks to repeal the Quarantine Act and enact the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, make provisions relating to quarantine and make regulations for preventing the introduction into and spread in Nigeria of dangerous infectious diseases, and for other related matters. The bill has passed its second reading in the HoR.
However, with the introduction of the bill, there has been outrage among the lawmakers especially on the aspect of giving too many powers to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in the management of infectious diseases and pandemic in the country in ways that could infringe on the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.
The HoR Member representing Edo, Sergius Ogun, told the House to think twice and avoid giving so much power to the NCDC to solely manage infectious diseases in the country. ‘Be careful with trusting omnibus powers on an agency whose responsibility it will be to determine whether or not, a vaccine is necessary for combating a given outbreak. Such could give rise to conspiracy’, he said.
As the bill has passed its second reading, the Senior Grant Officer and Head of Programme and Advocacy at Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy, and Development (SCDDD), Bola Abimbola, shared his thoughts about the Surveillance section in the bill. SCDDD is a non-profit organisation promoting global peace and development through policy analysis, advocacy, and strategic partnerships.
The Surveillance section of the bill states, ‘The Director-General may, in his discretion, order any person who is, or is suspected to be, a case or carrier or contact of an infectious disease to undergo surveillance for such a period of time and subject to such conditions as the Director thinks fit’.
Abimbola stated that ‘here is one of the sections in the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 causing problems. However, permit me to say that this bill is needed at this stage of our development after proper input from all the critical stakeholders’.
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