Reps: We don’t legislate for states
A Federal High Court in Abuja has 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 yesterday 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 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.
Melaye wants the court to direct the respondents to delete the provisions of Sections 3(8), 5(3), 6, 8, 13,15, 16,17,19, 23, 30 and 47 of the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020, as same are inconsistent with sections 33, 34, 35, 37, 38 and 40 of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999, and Articles 4, 6, 7, 10, 11,12 and 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The bill was moved on the floor of the House of Representatives presided over by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila on April 28, 2020. It passed first and second readings. The court fixed May 20 for hearing of the matter.
Reps to govs: We don’t legislate for states
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has faulted the position of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) on the proposed bill, calling for a halt to its passage.
The House in a statement by its spokesman, Benjamin Okezie Kalu, said it does not legislate for states, as such, the governors’ position was misguided.
The Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) had, through a communiqué at the end of its virtual meeting held on May 13, asked the House to step down the bill.
The communiqué noted that following an update from the Governor of Sokoto State and Vice Chairman of the NGF, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, on the bill, the governors raised concern with the lack of consultation with state.
According to the Reps’ statement, the NGF’s position was belated, as the House had since last week resolved to subject the bill to a public hearing so that Nigerians would have the opportunity to make inputs towards the draft legislation.
“It is rather surprising that the NGF, in arriving at its decision, relied on “an update from the Governor of Sokoto State, who, apart from being a lawyer, is a former Speaker and an ex-ranking member of the House, who should know better and guide the forum accordingly.
“We assume that his position was informed by his well-known personal and partisan opposition to the emergence of the current leadership of the House considering his obvious stance in 2015 and 2019,” the statement added.
It added that the National Assembly is independent of the control of any state governor or former speaker, except if the governors want to change that.
“Notwithstanding, the House expresses its readiness to work with the committee raised by the NGF to meet members of the Green Chamber on the Bill. The governors are our critical stakeholders in nation building, and we understand the importance of working with our governors at critical moments such as this pandemic period.
“The House also wishes to state that the NGF is free to make its position on the bill known through a memorandum during the planned public hearing or send its representative or representatives to appear in person. Till date no single governor has called the Speaker or anyone in leadership to express his views. It is our belief that there are better channels of communication available to the NGF to address the leadership of the House instead of the pages of newspapers.
“The House is also concerned that the presence of the Sokoto State Governor in the NGF’s consultative panel may not guarantee a smooth interface, since in his capacity as a former Speaker he could not guide the forum appropriately on the matter, and he appeared to have already taken a biased position,” it added.