NIREC, Minister disagree over Infectious Diseases Bill



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NIREC, Minister disagree over Infectious Diseases Bill

Victor Oluwasegun, Abuja



The Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) and Minister for Health, Osagie Ehanire disagreed sharply on the Infectious Diseases Bill during the concluding part of the Public Hearing on the bill on Thursday.

The 2-day hearing on the contentious bill held at the National Assembly by the Joint Committees of Justice, Health Services and Health Institutions.



While NIREC supported the piece of legislation, saying there were gaps in the laws regarding infectious diseases in the country, the Minister posited that another legislation on such was unnecessary, advising the bill be subsumed in the NCDC Amendment Act and the Quarantine Amendment Act.

The religious council, in a presentation by its Executive Secretary, Prof. Cornelius Omonokhua, said: ” We observe that the control of of Infectious diseases bill 2020 is intended to repeal the Quarantine Act, 1926. The retention of such a century old legislation in our statute books is one of the inadequacies in our legal system.

“The bill therefore is long overdue given that a 1926 legislation cannot adequately take care of the current challenges. This is more so with the devastating effect of the COVOVID-19 global pandemic. Probably, the challenges experienced in the course of the fights against the deadly disease made those in authority to think of having a legislation that can meet the current demands in the shortest possible time.”

However, the religious council sounded a note of warning: “We observed that there are provisions in the bill which are likely to affect religious activities or sensitivities. One of provisions is that of section 12 of the bill which deals with disposal of corpse.

“Another such provision is that of section 19 of the bill which deals with prohibition or restriction of meetings and gatherings. The NASS should avoid inserting provisions that do not take religious sensibilities or federal structure if the country into cognisance.”

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NIREC said there was no perfect bill, stating. “If after the public hearing the bill is acceptable by majority of Nigerians with the necessary modifications , then, the bill may scale through.”

However, Ehanire said: “Before examining the Bill, it is important to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that some provisions of the proposed Bill are contained in other enactments of the National Assembly, such as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Establishment) Act, 2018 and the Quarantine Act, 1926 which the Bill seeks to repeal.

” In view of this and the fact that the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is vested with powers to administer and implement the provisions of the Bill, it would seem that the NCDC would be implementing two Acts of parliament.

” Consequently, it is recommended that the provisions of the proposed Bill be incorporated into the NCDC Act by amending the NCDC Act, 2018 thus giving it more powers and responsibilities.”

“This recommendation is in consonance with the objective of the NCDC Act to protect Nigerians from the impact of communicable diseases of Public Health importance provided for under Sections 1(a) of the NCDC Act as well as the NCDC function of prevention, detection, monitoring and control of diseases of National and International Public Health importance including emerging and re-emerging diseases provided for under Sections 3 (1)(a) of the NCDC Act.

‘The Quarantine Act could also be amended by the inclusion of provisions relating to Quarantine and Port Health Services. This would further strengthen these existing legislations and avoid conflict and duplication of functions which the proposed Bill would likely create.”

NIREC, Minister disagree over Infectious Diseases Bill

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