Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house of representatives, says Nigeria’s framework for managing the COVID-19 pandemic is outdated.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in March signed the quarantine act and ordered a five-week long lockdown in the federal capital territory (FCT, Lagos and Ogun.
At a session with the presidential task force on COVID-19 on Tuesday, Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation (SGF) who also chairs the committee, defended the president’s intervention, saying its legal basis was not debatable.
But reacting, the speaker said the government remains vulnerable to claims that its directives over COVID-19 cannot stand judicial scrutiny.
“Our current framework for the prevention and management of infectious diseases is obsolete and no longer fit for purpose.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 and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to take proactive action to prevent the entry into Nigeria of infectious diseases and the management of public health emergencies when they occur,” he said.
“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 NCDC guidelines led to the further spread of the coronavirus in Nigeria. We have had people break out from isolation centres, and others, who are fully aware of their status chose to travel across state lines on public transport.”
The lawmakers had a week ago debated the infectious diseases control bill which seeks to repeal the quarantine act of 1926 and provide new regulations that would enable Nigeria to adequately manage situations like the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill, sponsored by Gbajabiamila, Pascal Obi and Tanko Sununu, has been a subject of controversy owing to some provisions which some Nigerians have argued infringe on the fundamental rights of citizens.
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