COVID-19: Govs ask NASS to drop Infectious Diseases bill
•Say state govts in forefront of war against COVID not consulted
•Express worry over increasing cases
•Call for stricter enforcement of interstate restriction of movement
•Reps to hold emergency session tomorrow
By Henry Umoru & Tordue Salem
Governors of the 36 states, yesterday asked the Senate and House of Representatives to immediately step down the controversial Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 until an appropriate consultative process was carried out.
Consequently, the governors, under the aegis of Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, set up a committee, comprising Governors Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State; Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto and Simon Lalong of Plateau State to lead a consultative meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on the proposed bill.
The governors also directed the NGF Secretariat to comprehensively review the bill and its implication on states.
The bill, among others, seeks to ensure compulsory vaccination of citizens against infectious diseases, make possession of health card mandatory for international travelers leaving or arriving in Nigeria just like yellow fever card, repeal the Quarantine Act, and gives Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, the powers to take over any property for use as isolation centre.
While the Bill, which has passed second reading in the House of Representatives, is titled: “Infectious Diseases Control Bill 2020,” the one which was read the first time in the Senate is titled: “National Health Emergency Bill 2020.”
Reps meet on petitions against bill
Indeed, the House of Representatives will meet tomorrow over the deluge of petitions trailing the controversial bill and may take the advice of the governors, chairman of the House Committee on Health Matters, Tanko Sununu (APC, Kebbi), told Vanguard, yesterday.
“Following an update from the Governor of Sokoto State and Vice-Chairman of the NGF, H.E Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, on the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020 introduced by the House of Representatives, Governors raised concern with the lack of consultation with state governments who are at the forefront of the epidemic. The Forum resolved that the bill should be stepped down until an appropriate consultative process is held, including a public hearing to gather public opinion and concerns.
“In the light of this, the Forum established a committee comprising the Governors of Katsina, Sokoto and Plateau states to lead a consultative meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020. The NGF Secretariat was also mandated to comprehensively review the Bill and its implication on states,” the governors stated in a communique issued at the end of their 8th COVID-19 Teleconference meeting on Wednesday night.
Govs worry over rising cases
The governors also expressed fears over the increasing cases of COVID-19 across the country, stressing that there is urgent need for additional measures by them to ramp up capacity for testing, increase the availability of isolation beds to at least 300 per state, and accelerate procurement of additional Personal Protective Equipment, PPE.
In the communique signed by the NGF Chairman and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, yesterday, the governors said with the increasing COVID-19 cases in the country which reached 5,000, improvement in the area of training for health workers, as well as continued enforcement of interstate restriction of movement had become very imperative.
The governors agreed to take additional measures that would help strengthen their public financial management systems, following the outbreak of COVID-19, adding that part of the moves would be a revision of states’ 2020 budgets and amendment of procurement guidelines to support e-procurement and the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises
The Forum congratulated the newly appointed Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Professor Ibrahim Gambari and looks forward to a fruitful partnership that will support the development of the country.
The NGF communique
The communique read: “We, members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), at our meeting held today( yesterday) deliberated on the COVID-19 pandemic in the country and resolved as follows:
The NGF Chairman briefed State Governors on existing coordination activities with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, multilateral and bilateral partners, and the private sector through the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID). In addition to ongoing activities aimed at strengthening the public health response and delivery of palliatives to vulnerable persons, the Forum is coordinating an additional response with support of the Dangote Foundation to set up a volunteer work force of health personnel who will be trained and deployed to strengthen the availability of health workers in states in critical need.
“The Forum is concerned with the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country which reached 4,787 as at 12th May 2020 based on an update from the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19. The worrying trend urgently calls for additional measures by State Governors to ramp up capacity for testing, increase the availability of isolation beds to at least 300 per State, accelerate the procurement of additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and training for health workers, as well as the continued enforcement of interstate restriction of movement.
“In line with the commitment made by the Forum to intensify public-private collaboration for the delivery of palliatives from the private sector, Governors are making warehouses available for the delivery of palliatives and have appointed State Coordinators who will be responsible for the receipt and distribution of palliatives to vulnerable persons.
“The Forum received a briefing from the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, on the Oil and Gas Industry Intervention Initiative on COVID-19, set up by oil and gas operators to provide medical consumables to states, deploy logistics and in-patient support systems, and deliver permanent medical infrastructure across the six geopolitical zones. Governors commended NNPC for leading the industry to take the initiative and advised the group to prioritize interventions that will boost the country’s testing capacity and the capacity of health workers who are at the frontline of the epidemic.
“Following an update from the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki on the operation of the World Bank States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) project which is supporting a strong pro-poor fiscal response to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, State Governors agreed to take additional measures to strengthen their public financial management systems, including a revision of their 2020 budgets and the amendment of State procurement guidelines to support e-procurement and the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises.
“To fast-track the deployment of e-procurement across States, the Forum will be adopting a Software as a Service (SaaS) model with the Kaduna State government providing the framework agreement that other states can leverage on.”
Reps hold emergency session tomorrow
Reacting to the governors’ call, chairman of the House Committee on Health Matters, Tanko Sununu, said the House of Representatives will on Saturday hold an emergency meeting to consider their petitions asking the House to suspend a scheduled public hearing on the contentious Infectious Diseases Control Bill, 2020.
In a telephone chat, the lawmaker said: “We (the House of Representatives) are looking at Saturday to consider the petition from governors and some other groups. It is after we meet that we will decide on what to do with the bill.
“But the governors’ position is that the public hearing be suspended; so we will look at how the bill will affect the states, and then come out with a position.”
Several calls and text messages to spokesman of the House, Benjamin Kalu (APC, Abia) were neither responded to or returned.
Special Adviser on Media to the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, also declined to speak on the matter, even though the sponsor of the piece of legislation is his principal.
However, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, from Plateau State, Dachung Bagos, said he had received six petitions against the bill.
He, however, advised the governors to allow a public hearing.
He said: “Actually, I have received six petitions from different groups against the bill but the process of considering the bill has been transparent so far, so let the governors also make their input on the bill, and it will be considered at a public hearing.
“Let the Governors Forum direct their secretariat to come to the public hearing and present a petition, I’m sure it will be considered.”