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COVID-19: Group advocates review of Infectious Diseases Bill

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…says provisions of bill malign human rights

Infectious Diseases Bill
House of Reps

By Elizabeth Adegbesan

The  Action Group on Free Civic Space (AGFCS) has advocated for the review of the Control of Infectious Diseases Act (CIDA) Bill 2020 saying that some of its provisions poses great risk on human rights of citizens.

The drafted CIDA Bill is a strategic legal framework for repositioning and strengthening the national disease control body and relevant health officials to undertake the important task of preventing and managing the outbreak of infectious diseases such as Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) which has claimed over 80 lives across various states in Nigeria.

The group made this call in a statement saying:” Nigerian civil society organizations, under the auspices of the AGFCS, have extensively examined the provisions of the draft bill and note that the Bill requires major revisions and adequate consultations.”

It stated: “These provisions will further embolden authoritarians to erode the democratic rights of citizens, including, clamping down on associations and gatherings that examine and critique the failings of government.

“In light of the foregoing, we make bold to state that the bill should not be passed in its current form for the reasons stated above.

“We, therefore, re-echo the sentiments of the current Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) when he stated unequivocally that drafting a bill in the middle of a crisis is not a priority. Like he rightly stated, the Bill requires more consultation.”

READ ALSO: NCDC not aware of Control of Infectious Diseases Bill – Ihekweazu

The maligning provisions according to the group are “Granting overreaching powers to law enforcement officers or the police to apprehend persons suffering from infectious diseases, is worrying—Section 24; Isolation of persons at undisclosed locations  (Section 13(1)(2)); Unilateral declaration of isolation areas, destruction of suspicious or known sources of infectious   disease  such   as   structures, goods,   sewage,   etc;

“Breaches of individual privacy, confidentiality agreements, and doctor-patient data privacy; and arbitrary   restriction   on   freedom   of   association,   gatherings,   and   public entertainments.”

The group however recommended:” The use of draconian and coercive language throughout the entire draft statute is unnecessary.

“Redraft several provisions of the bill in order to conform to legally-binding human rights standards that Nigeria has signed on to.

“Review the excessive powers granted to the NCDC Director-General, the Minister of Health and other law enforcement officers to subjectively arrest without warrant,  confiscate properties, and obtain information without any restraint.  Review and expunge the time limitation on the right to file complaints at magistrate courts.”

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