The House of Representatives on Tuesday expressed readiness to hold a public hearing on the contentious quarantine Act 2004 to replace the infectious diseases bill following criticism from the general public.
This is as the Speaker; Femi Gbajabiamila said the bill was conceived in the best interests of the Nigerian people.
Gbajabiamila said the allegation that the Bill is a sinister attempt to turn Nigerians into guinea pigs for medical research while taking away their fundamental human rights was far from the truth.
The Bill will now be subjected to a public hearing where Nigerians from all walks of life would be given the opportunity to contribute to the draft law, the Speaker said.
The bill was raced through the legislative process last week and was meant to have been passed into a law without public hearing due to the “exigencies of the time” according to the Speaker.
But on Tuesday, Gbajabiamila while addressing members at the resumption of plenary session confessed 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 are 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 mischaracterised and misconstrued to raise the spectre of sinister intent and ominous possibility.
“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 Our current framework for the prevention and management of infectious diseases is obsolete and no longer fit for purpose.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.”
The Speaker added that the social distancing guidelines that the House and the whole country operate for the time being would not allow for a usual format of public hearing, but that “If a socially distant public hearing becomes workable, we will certainly explore that option.
“Nonetheless, the House will provide alternative platforms for all Nigerians who desire to send in written documents that articulate their concerns, make recommendations on amendments and perhaps present other formulations for a new framework for managing infectious diseases in Nigeria.”
He said all the contributions received by the House will be considered and aggregated to improve the proposed legislation.