By Tordue Salem – Abuja
The Minister of Health, Dr Osage Ehanire, and several other stakeholders, Thursday kicked against provisions in a bill sponsored by Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases and Health Institutions.
The piece of legislation, they noted, duplicates key functions of the National Centre for Diseases Control, NCDC, and according to them, is a waste of efforts.
YIAGA Africa, and other stakeholders partnering with the National Assembly, to strengthen Nigeria’s response system to diseases outbreaks, however, said the legislative instrument, will strengthen efforts of already existing structures on communicable diseases.
Dr Ernest Ereke, Coordinator, Yiaga Africa Center for Legislative Engagement, in his response to the Bill, expressed satisfaction with the extent of engagement by stakeholders and the possibility of a stronger legislation to battle disease outbreaks in the country.
“We had a lot of stakeholder engagements with the lawmakers, and our stand on the Bill, is that it must not derogate from citizens’ rights.
“We also believe that the quarantine Act, is anachronistic and should be re-enacted to effective legislation to react to the outbreaks in the future.
Entitled, “A Bill for an Act to Provide for an effective National Framework for the control of outbreaks of Infectious Diseases endangering Public Health during periods of Public Health emergencies and for related matters”, the piece of legislation, is contentious in a number of sections.
The Minister of health in his submission at a public hearing on the Bill, picked holes in part 6 and other sections of the Bill.
Part of the Bill, invests in a new agency, in part 6, ”powers of the Centre or authorized officer in dealing with outbreaks and suspected outbreaks of infectious diseases, powers of investigation, disposal of document, substance of matter, Power of Arrest, Law Enforcement or authorizes Officer May Demand names and addresses in certain cases.
“Disclosure of user information by Director-General to prevent spread or possible outbreak of declared infectious diseases, etc, disclosure of user information by Centre tp specified recipient and Security assistance”.
The Ministry also picked holes in several other sections duplicating the already statutory functions of the NCDC.
Chairmen of the committees, Senator Chukwuka Utazi(PDP-Enugu) and Rep. Tanko Sununu(APC-Kebbi) who anchored the hearing of the Bill, said they organized the occasion, to enrich the Bill, and come out with a stronger framework for better response to Diseases outbreaks in the country.
Utazi in his speech said the Bill came about, from both chambers, because of the “challenges that confronted the nation, regarding the coordination of national response measures to combat the dreaded coronavirus crisis, as a result of extant archaic quarantine legislation”.