A leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, has warned that the controversial Infectious Diseases Bill, if passed and signed into law in its current form, will be too draconian.
He added that the bill could encourage abuse of power considering the political history of Nigeria.
While supporting calls to rejig the bill, he stated that Section 15 of the bill gives powers to the Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to acquire any property in any state on mere suspicion, adding that the clause contravenes the Land Use Act, which vests that power on state governors.
Chinda spoke when he appeared on the Morning Show, a breakfast programme of ARISE News Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers.
The lawmaker, who commended the sponsors of the bill for their foresight, however, stated that its provisions were draconian, with various sections grossly abusing the constitution and rights of citizens.
“By the wording of that bill, it will be politicised considering the political history of Nigeria. Anybody who becomes director-general of NCDC and is given these powers – of course, the person that appointed him belongs to a political party. We practice a multi-party system, unlike Singapore where they have a one-party system.
“It will be politicised and I think that’s the area we have to look at. Even where you want to give such powers, it should be tied to conditions so that when you exercise it, it is not completely discretionary. I don’t think it’s proper to leave it the way it is now, besides the fact that it will encroach other existing laws; it will lead to serious abuse.
“Section 15 empowers the DG to issue a notice and take over a citizen’s property and declare it an isolation centre without the consent of the owner. What this means is that the DG enjoys so much power even against the provisions of Land Use Act.
So without the consent of the governor, the federal government through the DG can acquire any property in any state under this law,” he added.
The lawmaker, however, said the bill was in the interest of the public, and shouldn’t be thrown away but reviewed to suit the local need.
According to him, “Nigeria needs a new bill that will take care of emergency situations, particularly as it pertains to infectious diseases because of our experience during the Ebola era and the present COVID-19.
Of course, we have heard the criticisms that the bill was copied from the Singaporean version and there’s nothing wrong with that as far as issues of plagiarism are concerned, statutes and legislations do not fall within that purview.
“But in adopting foreign statutes, you must consider local circumstances. So when you build them in, you must adopt them in line with the local circumstance.
This particular bill didn’t consider that at all. Nigeria is operating a multi-party system and it’s a federation so there will be serious need to adjust that bill to our own local circumstance,” he said.