The House of Representatives has disclosed that the order given by an Abuja Federal High Court does not stop the process for the passage of the proposed “Infectious Diseases Control Bill 2020.”
In a statement by its Spokesperson, Benjamin Okezie Kalu, on Sunday it expressed dismay over the alleged erroneous reports on the matter by some media outfits.
According to the statement, some of the reports allegedly misinterpreted the decision of the court in suit no FHC/ABJ/CS/463/2020 on 13th May 2020.
“While the House encourages the public and all media outfits to verify and refer to the certified true copy of the court’s order in all further social commentary or report on the subject matter, it has become necessary to set the record straight.
“The truth of the matter is that although the applicant, by way of a motion exparte, sought a court order suspending the consideration of the Bill by the House, the court in its wisdom and in the interest of justice and fair hearing, declined to grant the relief sought by the applicant in order to enable the respondents in the case to appear before it and enter a defence,” it said.
It quoted the Court as stating: “It is for this reason that I hereby make an Order mandating the Respondents to appear before this Court on the 20th day of May 2020 to show Cause why the application of the Applicant should not be granted.”
The House it was awaiting official service of processes as directed by the court.
It reiterated that, as a creation of the Nigerian Constitution, the House will continue to perform its lawful mandate without jeopardizing its deference to the judicial system and the process of adjudication.
What the court said
A Federal High Court in Abuja had ordered the House of Representatives to maintain status quo on the infectious diseases bill which has passed second reading.
Justice Ifeoma Ojukwu, while ruling on an ex parte application on Friday, also summoned the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, as well as the Clerk of the National Assembly to appear before the court.
“In effect, it is the opinion of the court that the respondent be put on notice in this case,” the judge said.
“Should the respondent fail to attend court on the date stated for the hearing of this matter, the reliefs sought ex-parte shall be granted,” she added.
Senator Dino Melaye had brought the fundamental rights enforcement suit through his counsel, Nkemakolam Okoro, asking the court to declare that the bill constitutes a gross abuse of, and is likely to infringe upon his fundamental rights if eventually passed into law.
The former lawmaker had stated on May 4 that: “I have just filed a court action against the Speaker and House of Representatives on the wicked bill initiated by Hon Femi Gbajabiamila this morning at the Federal High Court Abuja. We shall overcome.”
The notice of the application as displayed by Melaye’s account read: “Notice of application for an order enforcing fundamental rights (is) brought pursuant to Sections 34 (1), 35 37, 38, 40, 41 (1), 44, and 46 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as altered; (and) Articles 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12 and 14 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.”
Gbajabiamila explains the Bill
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila has defended the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, saying it was conceived in the best interests of the Nigerian people and no one else.
“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.
“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, who 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.”
“It bears restating that we do not have in our country, a healthcare system or for that matter, a national economy that is sufficiently robust to withstand the dire consequences of a sustained infectious disease pandemic.
“We cannot tie our own hands in the fight against this disease.”
“Whether we choose to accept it or not, the world we live in has changed irretrievably.
“There is no ‘normal’ to return to as this present crisis has laid bare the fundamental weaknesses in our systems of law and policy and left our nation at risk of devastating outcomes on all sides.
“Our current task is first to survive and then to set about building a new world.
“Inevitably, this demands that we should be willing to consider new ideas, explore novel possibilities, rejecting those ancient shibboleths we have long adhered to without benefit.”