Governors, Labour, doctors reject Infectious Disease Bill

GOVERNORS, doctors and Labour on Wednesday rejected the Control of Infectious Disease Bill during a public hearing on Wednesday.

The Bill seeks to repeal the Quarantine Act of 1926, the Nigeria National Health Act (2004), National Programme on Immunisation Act (2004) and the Environmental Health Officers (Registration ETC) of 2002.

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) opposed the bill, which passed second reading on April 28.

NGF Chairman and Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi said the Bill gives governors scant operational space to manoeuvre.

“This Bill takes away the only authority the governors have to take specific steps and measures in their domains during an outbreak of infectious disease,” he said.

NGF believes the bill is undemocratic as it conflicts with the Constitution.

He noted that too many powers were given to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Director-General.

The NGF chairman said such a bill ought to take into consideration public health necessity.

“The public should have an opportunity to participate in the formulation of policies and laws and implementation should be open and clear to promote public trust which is crucial for preventing infection spread.

“Rights of individuals to contest an order or proceeding should be protected as much as possible

“In cases of considerable economic losses as a result of the imposition of such measures, international recommendations proffer that fair compensation be provided to those individuals.

“Any intervention seeking to provide a comprehensive legal and policy framework to ensure the effective management of cases involving infectious diseases…must be conducted within the context of the federation, carrying every stakeholder along and holding extensive consultations.

“The NGF is concerned that the governors were not consulted in putting the Bill together, neither was any role created for them, in utter disregard for their constitutional functions,” Fayemi said.

The NMA disagreed with many aspects of the Bill, such as compulsory invasive medical examination.

Through its President, Prof. Innocent Ujah, the association faulted the provision for compulsory treatment or vaccination, saying it is against the ethics of the profession.

Wabba, who represented the Organised Labour, highlighted 17 grey areas in the bill, which he described as undemocratic.

“Having read through the Bill, the only reinforcing and overwhelming voice is that of dictatorship.

“In presenting this memorandum, we choose to uphold our concern that the claim of commitment to the 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,” he said.

NCDC Director-General Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu said he would speak on the Bill today.

Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila said a lot of the engagement on the proposed legislation “has been ill-informed and outrightly malicious”.

Represented by the House Leader, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, he said: “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.”