Nigerian House of Representatives, has berated the 36 state Governors under the aegis of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), for demanding that the Nigerian National Assembly comprising the Senate and House of Representatives, steps down the controversial Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 (COVID-19 Bill) with little ado until an appropriate consultative process is done.
The House Official Spokesperson/Chairman, Committee on Media, Benjamin Kalu, in a press statement made known on the House official Facebook page, said 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, he, however, assumes 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.
Meanwhile, the Bill, which has passed 2nd reading in the House of Representatives, is titled: “Infectious Diseases Control Bill 2020,” while that of the Senate which was read the first time, is titled: “National Health Emergency Bill 2020.”
The bill if passed into an Act, will ensure compulsory vaccination of Nigerians against infectious diseases (COVID-19), take possession of health card mandatory for international travellers leaving or arriving in Nigeria just like yellow fever card, repeal the Quarantine Act, and gives Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, the powers to take over any property for use as isolation centre.
NGF, in furtherance, set up a committee, comprising Governors Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State; Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto and Simon Lalong of Plateau State to lead a consultative meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on the proposed Bill and also directed the NGF Secretariat to review the bill and its implication in the various states of the Nation.
The statement reads: It has come to the attention of the House of Representatives that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has, through a communique at the end of its virtual meeting held on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, asked the House to step down the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020, which public hearing is already scheduled.
“In the communique, the NGF noted that “Following an update from the Governor of Sokoto State and Vice Chairman of the NGF, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, on the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020 introduced by the House of Representatives, Governors raised concern with the lack of consultation with State governments are at the forefront of the epidemic.”
“The NGF said it “resolved that the Bill should be stepped down until an appropriate consultative process is held, including a public hearing to gather public opinion and concerns,” he noted.
“Against the impression given in the NGF’s communique, the House has since last week resolved to subject the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill to a public hearing where Nigerians from all walks of life will make their inputs towards the draft legislation. The NGF’s position is coming rather belatedly,” he said.
“However, the House wishes to state clearly that whilst it legislates for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including being the Parliament for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja only; the Nigeria Governors Forum is recognised by members of the House as leading lights in the task of Nation Building.”
The Spokesperson in berating the NGF, stated, “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.
“Unlike in a constitution amendment matter, where state houses of assembly have a defined constitutional role to play in effecting any review to it, Bills such as the Control of Infectious Diseases are not by our constitution subject of concurrence of state houses of assembly or state governors. We believe that our respected Governors are aware of this lawful processes of legislation and should not be misguided by the biased position of a former speaker.
“Let it be known that the House of Representatives, and the National Assembly, are independent of the control of any state governor or former Speaker, except if we want to change that now. Even at that, it has to be by a constitutional amendment sponsored by the citizens and not by the view of one Governor and former speaker,” he cautioned the NGF.
“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. We believe that there are better channels of communication available to the NGF to address the leadership of the house instead of the pages of newspapers.
Rep. Kalu, however, regretted that the smooth deliberation between the House and NGF might be affected considering the biased nature of the Sokoto State Governor in the NGF’s consultative panel.
“The House is also concerned that 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,” the statement reads.
“Thus, the House calls on the NGF to review the membership of the consultative committee to achieve the desired objectives with the unbiased members during their engagement with the leadership of the House,” he advised NGF.
“It is instructive to note that the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) in Section 60 gives the House the powers to regulate its legislative activities, and the House would not shy away from that. Members of the 9th Assembly are united irrespective of party affiliation and will continue to do those things that will promote good governance, unity and progress of our country,” he, however, assured.