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Aligning clauses in health-related bills for effective service delivery

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Aligning clauses in health-related bills for effective service delivery

By Angela Atabo, News Agency of Nigeria

Health sector stakeholders observe that the two health bills presented to the National Assembly should be aligned to ensure that certain clauses of the bills do not infringe on citizens’ rights.

The bill to repeal the Quarantine Law and enact the Infectious Disease Control Law is sponsored by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Representative Femi Gbajabiamila.

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The other is the National Health Emergencies Bill sponsored by Senator Chukwuka Utazi.

The public notes that the bills are a well-thought-out measure to change the face of the aftermath of the country’s health emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, most Nigerians, civil society organizations and some lawmakers have expressed concern about the bills.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

According to them, the provisions of the bills are intended to repeal the obsolete Quarantine Act 1926, Cap. Q2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and enact the National Health Emergencies Bill 2020, but the provisions may not guarantee the rights of the people.

They further argue that the bills give too much power to some people.

They note that some of the clauses, especially in the version of the House of Representatives’ bills, remain a “threat” to the fundamental rights of the people.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

Speaking on the imperative of national health emergency bills, Senator Utazi noted that the COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged the world in 2020 and saw a total lockdown, should be a powerful lesson which should prepare any country for an emergency. focus of any infectious disease.

Utazi, in his argument, pointed out that the use of quarantine to curb the spread of infectious diseases rose to prominence in the 14th century against the growing need to protect coastal cities from epidemics.

He said ships from infected ports upon arrival in Venice, present-day Italy, were only allowed to disembark after being docked for 40 days.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

He said that in accordance with this known practice, the British colonial government in Nigeria enacted the Quarantine Act, which came into force on May 27, 1926.

“This makes it the 94th year of existence of the law which has never been amended.

“The obsolete nature of the act has become evident with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic which is currently ravaging the world,” he said.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

The senator noted that the powers given to the president under the law allow the presidency to make regulations to limit the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that the exercise of this power had been the subject of wide debate among lawyers and public commentators.

“The legislator felt the need for a strong legal framework that can be deployed in response to national health emergencies,” he said.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

Disturbed by the irregularities, the senators saw fit to co-sponsor the bill “National Health Emergency Bill 2020”, with the aim of filling the gaps in the fight against the epidemic of future infectious diseases.

He noted that the purpose of the bill was to repeal the Quarantine Act 1926, Cap. T2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and enact the National Health Emergency Bill 2020.

For him, it is about making arrangements to regulate and prevent the introduction and spread in Nigeria of dangerous infectious diseases.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

The bill entrusts the administration of the law to the director general of the Nigerian Center for Disease Control and Prevention and covers the control of infectious diseases in the country.

It also provides for the prevention of the international spread of infectious diseases, while providing for provisions of general application.

The bill also covered the powers of the Nigerian Center for Disease and Control (NCDC) in dealing with outbreaks and suspected outbreaks of infectious diseases and other miscellaneous provisions.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

Gbajabiamila, in his sponsored bill to repeal the quarantine law and enact infectious disease control, aims to hold the NCDC accountable and more proactive in the event of an infectious disease outbreak.

The bill has, however, generated a great deal of controversy.

Gbajabiamila said the NCDC has very little power to carry out its mandate, even though it is a body made up of great professionals given the current law in place.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

The speaker said the bill would empower the NCDC to administer the vaccines needed to curb the spread of pandemics.

The lawmaker said the bill would also contain quarantine provisions and regulations to prevent the introduction and spread of infectious diseases in Nigeria.

He added that the quarantine law that had existed for many years “is primitive and weak” to meet current demands.

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He said the Infectious Disease Control Bill would replace old provisions with modern ones.

The speaker noted that the Quarantine Law provided for a penalty of 500 Naira for defaulters, but the Infectious Disease Control Bill proposed a penalty of between 200,000 Naira and 5 million Naira.

According to him, the infectious diseases bill also aims to empower the president and the minister of health to exercise certain powers necessary at first instance during any epidemic.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

Concerned Nigerians note, however, that the controversial clauses that attempted to take away Nigerians’ basic rights and the crushing power they bestowed on the NCDC chief executive remain a subject of controversy.

Representative Sergius Ogun, an Edo lawmaker, said care should be taken with the powers that would be given to the NCDC to administer the vaccines.

Rather than passing the bill and sending it to the Senate for approval, he said, it should be sent to the relevant committee so that there is more work to be done there.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

In addition, a lawmaker, Chris Azugbogu, said the quarantine law involved both humans and animals.

He noted that it was necessary to involve all relevant institutions to ensure maximum productivity.

Meanwhile, a coalition of civil society organizations, numbering about 39, opposed the infectious disease control bill for an alleged threat to human rights.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

In a statement from the group, he said he was shocked by the House of Representatives’ attempt to speed up passage of legislation as critical as the Infectious Disease Control Bill.

They said the bill was a threat to human rights and abuse of power

According to them, the Infectious Disease Control Bill grants excessive discretionary powers to the NCDC chief executive.

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They allege that the bill does not provide for a review and control of the exercise of these powers.

According to the group, the bill authorizes the NCDC to restrict fundamental rights and freedoms at will and to abuse constitutionally established institutions and processes, without any form of accountability.

“For example, Article 10 (3) gives the NCDC leadership express power to use force to enter any premises without a warrant.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

“Section 19 also gives it the power to prohibit or restrict public meetings, gatherings and entertainment.

“Article 15 (3e) gives the NCDC the power to authorize the destruction and disposal of any structure, property, water supply and drainage systems, among others.

The group demanded that the House of Representatives bring the bill to public scrutiny by embarking on stakeholder consultations and a public hearing to tap into public contributions to the legislation.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

They called on the National Assembly to refrain from attributing powers beyond the limits of the institutions.

“We must avoid the temptation to confer absolute powers on public officials, as this could be abused and misused to undermine constitutionally guaranteed rights.

“Laws must be made for the people and any law that does not protect the human rights of the people as guaranteed by the constitution must be rejected in its entirety,” the group insists.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

Dr Ernest Ereke’s director, YIAGA, also noted that some of the bill’s provisions do away with basic rights for Nigerians, observing that the public outcry that greeted it has prompted lawmakers to rethink.

He said engagement with the National Assembly and relevant committees on both versions of the bills was timely.

“We are able to bring the committee and citizens to a round table and some of the contentious issues have been dealt with with the Senate version.

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While accepting the imperative of the infectious disease bill, Ms. Yetunde Bakare, Senior Program Officer, YIAGA Africa Center for Legislative Engagement, noted that the pandemic had shown that there should be a need to review legislation for the management of dangerous and infectious diseases.

She said, however, that the proposed new legislation, in particular the House of Representatives Infectious Disease Control Bill, showed that the provisions could likely infringe on citizens’ rights.

“We cannot have a law that allows the entry and seizure of any property without a warrant and gives a general manager the power to requisition any property.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

“The bill granting enormous, albeit discretionary, power to the health ministry and the director general of the NCDC may be subject to abuse,” she said.

She asserted that the National Assembly must ensure that the law provides a holistic measure to address contemporary and emerging challenges for the management of infectious diseases.

She also stated that it was necessary to ensure effective monitoring of their application to ensure the protection of citizens’ rights and to strengthen institutions.

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

Some Nigerians therefore note that while it is necessary to have a strong national law on health emergencies, things must be done right.

They express the hope that the new version of the bill, once enacted, will provide a human rights complaints system, a strong and detailed framework for quarantine, isolation, testing and identification of infected persons and treatment of infected persons.

They also called for the speedy passage and ascension of bills by the president in order to allow the nation to properly plan its health system to be proactive in crisis situations and not always be influenced by reactive activities. (Characteristics)

Third Annual Nigerian Technology Summit sponsored by the Nigerian US Embassy returns to Abuja, Nigeria

Source: NAN

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