By Marie-Therese Nanlong
Civil Society, CSOs operating in Plateau State have thrown their weight behind the call for the National Assembly to drop the controversial Infectious Disease Bill being debated saying the bill is anti-people and any attempt to force it on the people would not be tolerated.
Some of the CSOs, including Equity International Initiative, EII, Civil Liberty Organisation, CLO and Bege Foundation, BF at a joint press conference in Jos, the State wondered why the bill which they say is a pirated one from other nations should be so hurried if they were no sinister intention by its proponents.
Speaking, the Director of CLO, Steve Aluko, noted that at a time when most parts of the nation are on lockdown and movement is restricted as a result of Covid-19 pandemic, the National Assembly is in a hurry to organize public hearing and pass the bill without giving a room for robust public participation.
He said: “If we don’t stop it, this may just be a landmark of precedence to further legislative impunity in the nearest future. That is why we must call on all Nigerians across all shades of opinion, religions and tribes to rise up. Whatever is going on in the National Assembly today cannot be said to guarantee fair hearing on the basis of good representation of Nigerians’ opinion.
“The question is why the rush; why is the National Assembly in a rush to present a bill when the pandemic is still on if there is no sinister motive? There is a provision in the bill that talks about compulsion; are we in another military era when totalitarian was the order of the day? Critical to this bill is the power it will gives to the enforcement agent to have access to private information. Such overriding power where an agency or one person can declare that any part of this country be quarantined is unacceptable and negates the principle of rule of law.
“Therefore we are saying ‘No’ to the bill. We are not even asking for an amendment to the it; we are saying it should be suspended for now until the pandemic is over; and until such an auspicious time that Nigerians with expertise to such bill can all make inputs to it, such that at the end of the day we can have something that is acceptable to all and will not infringe on our right and tenet of democracy. This bill must therefore die a natural death.”
The Country Director of Equity International Initiative, EII, Chris Iyama, who said his organization has submitted a memorandum to the National Assembly regarding the bill added, “If they decide to force the bill down the throats of Nigerians, we have the right to march out to the streets against the Speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, and the entire House of Representatives. We say in clear terms that we totally condemn the bill, and the House should drop it.”
Also, an activist, Shamaki Gad noted, “We must let them know that we have the right and capacity to protest against any bill that infringes on our right. Rather than spending money on renovation of a place where people only sit once or twice a week, I think such money should be channelled to better our health facilities in the country.
I must also add that it is not the absence of law that is the problem of Nigeria; it is proper implementation that is the issues. So, I call on all well-meaning Nigerians to rise up against such anti-people bill that does not allow us for an input. They cannot lock us down and yet expect us to participate in a public hearing that is held only in Abuja. Even the Nigerian governors have said ‘No’ to the bill.”
Other Speakers, Lukman Bello, Remikat Ayuba and others also say “No” to bill, asking that members of the National Assembly should know that they are they on account of the people not for themselves hence any issue which has the tendency to affect the people in the short or long term should not be supported.
It would be recalled that Governors, doctors and Labour had rejected the 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.