If criticism without restrictions is what a great government does, then the Federal Republic of Nigeria may well lead in the best global leadership. Unfortunately, this is not the case and it is not far from good governance, but since the beginning of the current democratic dispensation, Nigeria has been harassed by management with varying degrees of failure.
This reality did not force Nigerians to give up, quite the opposite. Citizens of the country are infamous for taking every opportunity to insult the government, and they have particularly spoken loudly after the COVID-19 crisis and the way the federal government has responded. The newly introduced and almost enacted draft NCDC is being investigated by many interested Nigerians. You can argue for a good reason.
The Infectious Disease Control Act passed its first and second reading in about two hours, despite the concerns expressed by a significant percentage of legislators during readings.
Rep. Nkem Abonta (PDP-Abia) expressed everyone’s concern when he said that he saw only the title of the bill, but he did not see it himself. He pointed out that in the case of a bill that the house is ready to give up from public hearings, which is an integral part of the lawmaking process, members may be critical of this before adopting it.
“We need to see all the details and make sure that we don’t create another problem after the law enters into force,” Abonta said.
The bill’s sponsor, Marshal Femi Gbajabiamila, returned with an apology in response to the hasty trial that he claimed was caused by the crisis in which the country found itself. He insisted on the second and third reading of the house and forwarded it to the Senate for agreement.
Most members voted against the bill but Deputy Speaker, Rep. Ahmed Wase ruled that the bill be passed for 2nd reading.
In a democracy, a bill got to 2nd reading and almost 50% of the House haven't seen or read the bill.
— AyeMojubar 😷 (@ayemojubar) April 30, 2020
As Twitter users have shown, analyzing the finer details of the project is not as difficult as legislators seem to do. Far away from here. In fact, a quick but careful review of the bill will not only show that this is an almost exact copy of the Singapore Infectious Diseases Act of 1977, but that it is a nightmare of sweeping power in the hands of police officers, port health officers, and especially the office of the Director General of the National Center Disease Control.
The entire chapter on the prohibition of meetings, assemblies and public entertainment has delegated to the Directorate-General powers to, where they think they can increase the spread of infectious diseases, prohibit or restrict such meetings. This is not as disturbing as this subsection, which authorizes any Health Officer or police officer to “take all measures necessary to give effect” to such a warrant.
One would think how many Nigerians have rightly pointed out that any act introduced into the Senate that has to do with the infamous Nigerian federal police force will be carefully combined with the most stringent controls and balance to provide limited space for abuse of power. For years, power has been the subject of control over the mass arrests and persecution of very often innocent and law-abiding citizens, especially in the southwestern region of the Speaker’s home.
What does “all necessary action” mean and who oversees his determination? For example, would a knee shot using a live bullet allow a fair interpretation of the “necessary”? After all, who can say what possible circumstances may arise from attempts to implement this strange piece of legislation?
Here are some of the many concerns raised by Nigerians on Twitter alone. The concerns you might think should be obvious to one of the highest-paid groups of legislators in the world. And maybe it was so obvious to them that they hesitated. While the bill passed both the first and the second reading, when it was time to consider the draft in the Wholeness Committee before it was adopted for third reading, Gbajabiamila said it should be reduced to Tuesday 4 June to allow members to go through the bill. There may be too much hope, expecting that this time will allow home members to view and tie loose ends and close holes in the bill, which are so large that they threaten to swallow the hope of Nigerians to exercise their rights, the revised 1999 constitution promised everyone law-abiding citizens who have been diminished by law and law over the years, the most prominent of which is the same-sex marriage ban.