May 11, 2020

NIDS, NMA, PSN, others fault Bill on Protection Against Infectious Diseases

The Senate

The Senate

NIDS, NMA, PSN, others fault Bill on Protection Against Infectious Diseases

•Bill can’t respond to public health threat — NIDS
•We want bill withdrawn, redrafted — NMA
•Suspension, not enough, step down bill — JOHESU
•Bill’s unwarranted — ACPN
•It’s an act of tyranny — Lagos PSN

By Sola Ogundipe, Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale

The Nigerian Infectious Disease Society, NIDS, Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria, ACPN and Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, have called for total review of the Bill on Protection against Infectious Diseases 2020, saying it failed to address all public health issues.

The National President of the NIDS, Professor Dimie Ogoina, said many aspects of the bill tended to cover prevention and protection without considering in details.

He argued that the major goal of the bill needed to be more encompassing, not just about infectious disease, but public health threat.

“There are elements of the bill not in tune with modern times.  For instance, laboratory capacity, what you need to do was not stated in that bill. The issue of a  vaccine has to be subjected to certain procedures because we need to do things in line with international best practice, no matter what you want to do.

“The aspect of that bill that talks of lockdown, travel restriction, some will affect ethical conduct, we have an issue of human rights because you cannot forcefully take someone into isolation, you don’t burn down a building that has an infected person, it is not in tune with modern terms, you can only decontaminate.

“The major purpose of the bill talks about quarantine. The bill also focuses on diseases that will come from outside the country, but there are certain diseases that can start from this country and become a big threat to the country.

“Now we have various ways infectious diseases spread, quarantine is just small part of any response to public health threat, the major goal of that bill needs to be reviewed to be more encompassing, not just infectious diseases, but public health threat.  Make sure you empower people to respond urgently to prevent, protect and respond,’’ he said.

Ogoina said subjecting the bill to public hearing was the best approach and that such a critical bill should not be passed without input from stakeholders’ suggestions and recommendations.

We want the bill withdrawn, redrafted — NMA President

In his reaction, the President of Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Dr Francis Faduyile, said although the NMA appreciates the sense of urgency and purpose of the House of Representatives in enacting strong legislation to fill the void in the existing ones, there was need for a broader consultation with relevant stakeholders.

Faduyile said broader consultation with relevant stakeholders would guarantee a law that will be implementable and not in conflict with the Constitution.

“NMA is not embarrassed by the public outcry against specific provisions of the Bill as such is one of the hallmarks of democracy and welcomes the resolve of the House to subject the bill to a public hearing.

“We further urge withdrawal of the bill entirely and redrafting to remove any existing and future doubts in the people.”

Suspension not enough, step down bill –  Chairman, JOHESU

The National Chairman of the Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU, Com-rade Joy Biobelemoye Josiah, in his reaction, called on speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to immediately step down the bill on Protection against Infectious Diseases 2020.

Noting that the bill should have been presented first at the National Assembly, Josiah said:  “This is a bill that is laced with mischief, otherwise there would be no basis for the House of Representatives to rush in passing such a sensitive bill.

‘’As we speak, we do not even know the content and this is supposed to be an Act of parliament. There is a procedural deficiency occasioned by the refusal of the parliamentarians to speak from the position of the law, even though they are lawmakers.

“It is not enough to suspend the bill, the speaker should be magnanimous and decorous enough to step it down and take it back to the drawing board for vetting so that all members of the National Assembly can have input before the bill can be presented before the House of Representatives and allow for robust debate so that even if this is necessary, we can be sure that we are doing the right thing.

“I think the most relevant stakeholders in this scenario such as the professional groups of health workers, human rights activists, the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, and all other such organisations need to rescue Nigeria because it is apparent there is vested interest, otherwise there is no other motive that could have compelled this unnecessary rush.”

Bill is unwarranted – Chairman, ACPN

In the views of the National Chairman of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria, ACPN, Pharm. Samuel Adekola, the Infectious Diseases Bill was unwarranted.

Adekola, who lamented the proliferation of bills in the country, said the NCDC bill would only introduce more unnecessary bureaucracy.

“We at the ACPN think there is an unwarranted proliferation of bills which eventually become Acts of parliament and because there is unwarranted proliferation, there is attendant overlap in statutory functions.

“We have a whole Quarantine Act which President Mohammadu Buhari has been relying on for pronouncement of the lockdowns, so why do we need a new Act of parliament in infectious diseases? In a war scenario, if you cannot revoke relevant sections of the Act, you can come up with an abridged bill.

‘’But rather than have new bureaucracy, at this time that we are saying Nigeria does not have money to support existing bureaucracy, why are we creating more? We have a preponderance of Acts, and all these create more problems.

According to Adekola, members of the National Assembly should not forget that they are representatives of the people and that in this capacity, they need to show responsibility, probably even more than others.

“The ACPN rejects this methodology. The whole concept of leadership is one that concerns passion, kindness and good consideration of the interest of those who are there. Leadership at all times should be respected and not secretive. When leadership begins to tinker with due process, there would be no choice other than to suspect your motives other than to respect it.”

It is act of tyranny – PSN, Lagos

Also speaking, chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Lagos State branch, Pharm Bolanle Adeniran, described the bill as an act of tyranny.

“The Lagos PSN is calling on JOHESU and its affiliate professional associations in healthcare, the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, consumers of health who have the right as people that will be directly affected by whatever this new bill presents, the Nigeria Union of Journalists and all other relevant stakeholders to rise and resist this new bill because this is an act of tyranny.

“We must also take a position that this is not a battle for only health workers and members of the public and all concerned stakeholders. We need the support of all professional groups, the association of professional bodies of Nigeria, organised private sector all groups and everybody must condemn this charade going on about the infectious diseases Bill.’’