- The speaker of the House of Reps, Femi Gbajabiamila, has dismissed all the allegations levelled against the proposed infectious diseases bill
- Gbajabiamila said the new bill was introduced because the current framework for the prevention and management of infectious diseases is obsolete
- The speaker insisted that the bill is introduced in the interest of Nigerians and will be subject to public debate and improvements before the final legislation
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The speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has reacted to the controversies generated by the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases bill which he sponsored.
There has been a social media outrage where some Nigerians are calling for an outright rejection of the bill, saying it is against democratic principles.
There are also allegations that the is a product of inducement by foreign interests who want to "turn Nigerians into guinea pigs for medical research while taking away their fundamental human rights".
However, in his remarks at the floor of the house on Tuesday, May 5, Gbajabiamila said the bill is still a proposal subject to consideration, amendment and improvement.
The speaker said none of the allegations against the bill is true.
"This House of Representatives will never, take any action that purposes to bring harm to any Nigerian here at home or abroad," he said.
Gbajabiamila explained that the new bill was introduced because the current framework for the prevention and management of infectious diseases in the country is obsolete and no longer fit for purpose.
"The current law severely constrains the ability of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to take proactive action 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," the speaker said.
Gbajabiamila also said he disagreed with some Nigerians who said it is not appropriate to introduce a new law at the moment where the country is in the middle of a pandemic.
He continued: "I disagree wholeheartedly with the suggestion that this is not the ideal time to seek reforms of the infectious diseases and public health emergency framework in the country.
"The weaknesses of the present system have already manifested in the inability of the government to hold to proper account those whose refusal to adhere with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines led to the further spread of the coronavirus in Nigeria.
"We have had people break out from isolation centres, and others, who fully aware of their status chose to travel across state lines on public transport."
Gbajabiamila said Nigeria does yet have a robust economy or healthcare system to withstand the dire consequences of a sustained infectious disease pandemic. Hence, the need to put in place an effective law to prevent and manage pandemics.
The speaker reiterated that the bill will be put forward to a public hearing where contributions will be sought to make improvements before final legislation.
He, however, said the current social distancing guidelines will not allow the public hearings to be conducted in the usual format.
"Nonetheless, the House will provide alternative platforms for all Nigerians who desire, to send in written documents that articulate their concerns, make recommendations on amendments and perhaps present other formulations for a new framework for managing infectious diseases in Nigeria. All the contributions we receive will be considered and aggregated to improve the proposed legislation," Gbajabiamila said.
Earlier, Legit.ng reported that the former senator representing Kogi West senatorial district, Dino Melaye, had dragged Gbajabiamila to court over the infectious diseases bill which, among other things, recommends compulsory vaccination in the country.
The former National Assembly member disclosed his action against Gbajabiamila in a tweet on Monday, May 4.
The bill which also passed second reading in the House of Representatives seeks to empower the NCDC and make it more proactive.
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