Court dismisses suit against controversial infectious disease bill

Members of the House of Representatives at a Special plenary on Tuesday 28/4/2020 (Photo: Speaker’s Office)
Members of the House of Representatives at a Special plenary on Tuesday 28/4/2020 (Photo: Speaker’s Office)

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday dismissed a suit filed by a former Kogi senator, Dino Melaye, seeking to stop the passage of the controversial Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 into law.

Sponsored by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the bill seeks to, among other things, make possession of health cards mandatory for international travellers leaving or arriving in Nigeria — just like the cards for yellow fever.

Adapted from a similar law in Singapore, some Nigerians have labelled it draconian and unfit for a democratic Nigeria.

Some critics of the bill also questioned the powers it vested in the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the health minister.

Mr Melaye had on May 5, filed the suit FHC/ABJ/CS/463/2020, citing alleged breach of his right to freedom and life.

Joined as defendants in the suit are Clerk of the National Assembly, Clerk and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Attorney-General of the Federation and the Inspector-General of Police.

He urged the court to delete sections 5, 8, 15, 16 and 17 of the bill, which he said constituted a violation or would likely violate his rights under the Nigerian Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

The provisions of the bill being contested by the former senator included the ones seeking to empower the Director-General of the NCDC to compel anyone to take medical examination or treatment and also collect the blood sample of such person in the case of a public health emergency.

Also, part of the provisions also seeks to empower the NCDC to take over any premises and turn them into isolation centres without compensation for the owner.

The bill also seeks to arrest and detain a suspected infected person with his or her consent.

Mr Melaye alleged that the controversial bill, if passed into law would specifically violate his fundamental rights to dignity of his person, personal liberty, private and family life, right to freedom of movement and right to own immovable property in Nigeria.

But, on Tuesday, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu upheld the notices of preliminary objection filed against the suit for lack of jurisdiction to hear it.

Justice Ojukwu, who did not bother to consider the case on merit, held that the issue raised in it was not justiciable, as the bill could not be a subject of litigation until it is signed into law.

Relying on the doctrine of separation of powers, the court said it could not at this stage determine whether contents of the Bill would amount to gross violation of fundamental rights of the applicant.



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