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Infectious Disease Bill: CSOs threaten nationwide protest

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Lawan

A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has threatened to mobilise a nationwide protest to express their disapproval of the Infectious Disease Bill currently being debated at the National Assembly, if the bill is not dropped, noting that passage of such anti-people bill should be discouraged.

The CSOs, made up of Equity International Initiative (EII), Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO), and Bege Foundation (BF), among others, jointly addressed a press conference yesterday, in Jos, Plateau State, describing the position of the House of Representatives as being autocratic over the bill.

CLO Director North Central, Comrade Steve Aluko, expressed worry that at a time most parts of the nation is on lockdown and movement is restricted as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, the National Assembly was in a hurry to organise public hearing and pass the bill without giving room for robust public participation.

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He said, “If we don’t stop it, this may just be a landmark of precedence to further legislative impunity in the nearest future. That is why we must call on all Nigerians across all shades of opinion, religions and tribes to rise up.

“Whatever is going on in the National Assembly today cannot be said to guarantee fair hearing on the basis of a good representation of Nigerians’ opinion. The question is why the rush; why is the National Assembly in a rush to present a bill when the pandemic is still on if there is no sinister motive? There is a provision in the bill that talks about compulsion; are we in another military era when totalitarian is the order of the day? Where are the fundamental rights of Nigerians as enshrined in the constitution, which should be the bedrock of governance at all levels?…”

“Critical to this bill is the power it will give to the enforcement agents to have access to private information. Such overriding power where an agency or one person can declare that any part of this country is quarantined is unacceptable and negates the principle of rule of law.”

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Country Director, Equity International Initiative (EII), Mr. Chris Iyama, who said his organisation has submitted a memorandum to the National Assembly regarding the bill, also condemned the move by the lawmakers in which some of the few people that were at the purported public hearing were shut down from making their free input.

Also, Comrade Shamaki Gad of the CLO, decried that the National Assembly has not deemed it necessary to go back to their various constituencies to deliberate on the bill with the people who sent them to represent them.

A seasoned journalist, Mr. Lukman Bello, and Miss. Remikat Ayuba of Bege Foundation also lent their voices to rejection of the bill which may be used as a political tool against opponents. They rather suggested that resources be channelled into empowering health research institutes.

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