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Infectious Diseases Bill: Gbajabiamila clears air on COVID-19 vaccine legislation



Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill was conceived in the best interests of the Nigerian people.

According to him, the allegation that the Bill is a sinister attempt to turn the citizens into guinea pigs for medical research and take away their fundamental human rights was far from the truth.

This was contained in a statement to DAILY POST on Tuesday by Lanre Lasisi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Speaker.

The disagreements over the matter must be grounded in a shared recognition that the country’s present travails demand urgent interventions, the Speaker said.

According to him, Nigerians must not allow themselves to become victims of the cynical assumption that every policy proposal or response is “a result of personal inducement or a grand conspiracy to bring harm to the people on whose behalf we hold political office.”

The Speaker noted that since the introduction of the Bill a week ago, there has been a barrage of criticisms against it, with allegations of sinister motives.

“Suffice it to say that none of these allegations is true.

Unfortunately, we now live in a time when conspiracy theories have gained such currency that genuine endeavours in the public interest can quickly become mischaracterized and misconstrued to raise the spectre of sinister intent and ominous possibility,” he said.

“This House of Representatives will never take any action that purposes to bring harm to any Nigerian here at home or abroad. As we have thus far shown by our conduct, the resolutions and actions we take in this 9th House of Representatives will always be in the best interests of the Nigerian people who elected us, and no one else.

“In the recent uproar, certain fundamental truths have been lost and are worth remembering. Our current framework for the prevention and management of infectious diseases is obsolete and no longer fit for purpose. ”

“The current law severely constrains the ability of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to take proactive action to prevent the entry into Nigeria of infectious diseases and the management of public health emergencies when they occur.

“Even now, the government remains vulnerable to claims that some directives already being implemented to manage the present crisis do not have the backing of the law and therefore cannot withstand judicial scrutiny.

“I disagree wholeheartedly with the suggestion that this is not the ideal time to seek reforms of the infectious diseases and public health emergency framework in the country.”

He said the weaknesses of the present system have already manifested in the inability of the government to hold to proper account those whose refusal to adhere with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) guidelines led to the further spread of the coronavirus in Nigeria.

We have had people break out from isolation centres, and others, fully aware of their status, chose to travel across state lines on public transport.”

He said as the number of those currently infected by the coronavirus continues to rise alongside the number of those who have died, there is no timeline for when the disease will pass, “and nobody can predict when the next public health crisis will occur, just as nobody predicted the present predicament.”

The Speaker added that citizens may sometimes disagree with the how and the whys of policy proposals, but that the parliament of the people is not an echo chamber.

The speakers’ clarification on the controversial bill may not be unconnected with allegations by the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) on Monday that it intercepted a human intelligence report suggesting that the House of Representatives leadership was poised to forcefully pass the “Compulsory vaccine bill without subjecting it to the traditions of legislative proceedings.

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