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A coalition of civil society groups has described the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill as a threat to human rights.

The group, 41 in total, said the House of Representatives must subject the bill to public scrutiny by embarking on stakeholders’ consultations and a public hearing to harness public inputs into the legislation.

Many Nigerians had criticised a move by the House of Representatives to repeal the Quarantine Act and replace it with the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill.

The bill, which scaled second reading before it was stood down last week, has 82 sections.

Sponsored by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the bill seeks to strengthen the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and make it more proactive and “not just reactive and function when there is an outbreak.”

The bill seeks to empower the president, the minister of health as well as the director-general of NCDC, and the institutions they head, to make regulations on quarantining, vaccination and prevention of infectious diseases in Nigeria.

CSOs position

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the groups said the bill empowers NCDC to restrict fundamental rights and freedoms of the people.

“The Bill empowers the NCDC to restrict fundamental rights and freedoms at will, and abuse constitutionally established institutions and processes, without any form of accountability.

“For instance, Section 10 (3) gives the Director-General express powers to use force to enter any premises without a warrant,” it said.

The group also said the bill violates key principles of legislative drafting rules mandating laws to be simple, clear and unambiguous.

It, therefore, demanded the immediate review of all provisions of the bill.

“The Bill violates key principles of legislative drafting rules mandating laws to be simple, clear and unambiguous.

“This leaves room for significant amount of discretion on the part of the implementing authorities and limits the rights of citizens and respective institutions to question decisions taken in the exercise of the powers provided in the Bill.

“We demand a review of all provisions of the Bill that foster inter-agency conflicts and abuse of power and undermine constitutionally guaranteed rights and are contrary to the rule of law and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations.”

The groups include: Girl Child Africa, Center For Liberty, Centre for Democracy and Development, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Say No Campaign, Amnesty International, YIAGA Africa, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, Global Rights and African Centre for Media and Information Literacy.

Others are International Press Centre, Lawyers Alert, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Enough is Enough, Community Life Project, Centre for Information Technology and Development, Centre for Impact Advocacy, Concerned Nigerians, Lex Community NG, Education as a Vaccine, Dinidari Foundation, Albino Foundation, The Community of PWDs in Nigeria, Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, Tap Nitiative for citizens development, Raising New Voices Initiative, Haly Hope Foundation, Youths Concerns Development Foundation, Adopt A Goal For Development Initiative, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, PITCH Nigeria, House of Justice, Molluma Medico-Legal Centre, Albino Foundation, The Community of PWDs in Nigeria, Alliances for Africa, Youths in Motion, Persons with Disabilities Action Network, Silverchip Fox, Community Action for Popular Participation and Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education.

Allegations

On Tuesday, Mr Gbajabiamila said the allegation that the bill is a sinister attempt to turn Nigerians into guinea pigs for medical research while taking away their fundamental human rights was far from the truth.

He said as representatives of the Nigerian people, members of the House would never contemplate doing anything that would jeopardise the wellbeing of the citizens.

He promised that a public hearing would be conducted during the consideration of the bill.

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