Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Femi Gbajabiamila Makes U-turn On Quarantine Bill

The House of Representatives on Tuesday made a U-turn on its earlier bid  to pass the contentious Infectious Disease Control  Bill without subjecting it to public hearing.

With the turnaround, the bill will now be thrown to the public to make input before it returns to the House for vetting and passage.

The House bill titled “Control of Infection Diseases Bill 2020 sponsored by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila seeks    to repeal the Quarantine Act and enact the Infectious Diseases Control Act.

It  passed first and second  readings in the House   last week but attracted outbursts from  the  Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) which alleged that the  lawmakers had been offered $10million to pass it,

Some Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are already mobilising to shoot down the bill

Also, a former member of the Senate, Dino Melaye,  filed an action at the Federal High Court Abuja, seeking to stop further consideration of the bill.

The  House bill seeks  to empower the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to order the administration of vaccines on all Nigerians in a bid to control infectious diseases.

Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila,  while addressing members at the resumption of plenary yesterday noted   that since the introduction of the bill, there has been a barrage of criticisms against it, with allegations of sinister motives.

He explained that the bill was conceived because of the the “exigencies of the time” and in the best interests of Nigerians.
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Gbajabiamila said the allegation that the bill  was a sinister attempt to turn Nigerians into guinea pigs for medical research while taking away their fundamental human rights was far from the truth.

The  proposed law, according him,  will, because of the controversy, be subjected to  public hearing where Nigerians from all walks of life would be given the opportunity to contribute to the draft law.

His words:  ”Suffice it to say that none of these allegations are true. Unfortunately, we now live in a time when conspiracy theories have gained such currency that genuine endeavours in the public interest can quickly  characterised and misconstrued to raise the spectre of sinister intent and ominous possibility.

“This House   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.

“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 current law severely constrains the ability of the Federal Government   and the  NCDC to take proactive actions to prevent the entry into Nigeria of infectious diseases and the management of public health emergencies when they occur.

“Even now, the government remains vulnerable to claims that some directives already being implemented to manage the present crisis do not have the backing of the law and therefore cannot withstand judicial scrutiny.”

According to Gbajabiamila, citizens may sometimes disagree with the “how” and the “why” of policy proposals, but that the parliament   is not an echo chamber.

He stated’ “It is a marketplace of ideas where only those proposals that gain currency with the majority should carry the day. However, our disagreements must be grounded in a shared recognition that our present travails demand urgent interventions. And we must not allow ourselves to become victims of the cynical assumption that every policy proposal or response is a result of personal inducement or a grand conspiracy to bring harm to the people on whose behalf we hold political office.

”Subsequently, the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill will be put forward to a public hearing where stakeholder contributions will be sought to make improvements to the bill before it is reviewed and debated by the committee of the whole.

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