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COVID-19: Senate pushes for repeal of 96-yr old Quarantine Act

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COVID-19: Senate pushes for repeal of 96-yr old Quarantine Act


To help Nigeria deal with any impending outbreak of infectious and contagious diseases in the future the Senate has considered a critical bill that would see to the eventual repeal of the obsolete Quarantine Act enacted in 1926.

The Health Emergency Bill, 2021, which scaled Second Reading on the floor during plenary, also does not make it mandatory for any Nigerian to be subjected to forced immunization under the proposed legislation.

Sponsor of the bill, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North), said the piece of legislation under consideration was informed by the challenges that confronted the nation regarding the coordination of national response measures to combat the dreadful coronavirus crisis.

According to the lawmaker, the Executive in an attempt to scale the loopholes created as a result of the extant archaic Quarantine legislation, was compelled “to embark on a litany of subsidiary legislations to deal with certain exigencies” at the time. 

Utazi stated that the Health Emergency Bill, when passed and signed into law, would establish an updated comprehensive legal and administrative framework for handling outbreaks of infectious and contagious diseases that portends major threat to public health safety within Nigeria, or are likely to be transmitted into Nigeria or outside Nigerian borders, if quarantine or other emergency health measures are not taken by appropriate authorities to control spread or infection rate. 

He, specifically, emphasized that the Bill provides the legal and institutional framework for imposition and implementation of mandatory seIf-isolation and quarantine of infected persons, introduction of movement restrictions, and adoption of appropriate safety and welfare measures at or during the outbreak of dangerous contagious diseases. 

He said, “it provides statutory recognition for power of the President, and in appropriate circumstances, the Governor, to declare any place or area ”an infected area” and accordingly issue appropriate regulations or directives to prevent the spread of such infections in Nigeria, and the transmission from Nigeria to any other part of the world.

“It also provide for funding and accountability mechanisms for containment measures introduced at the outbreak or during disease epidemics and pandemics.

“This Bill further prescribes offences and appropriate punishments for violations and contraventions associated with the control and management of dangerous contagious disease epidemics or pandemics.” 

The lawmaker added that the Bill in repealing the archaic Quarantine Act of 1926 and under schedules l and II, expands the scope and interpretation of dangerous infectious diseases beyond what is contained in the Quarantine Act. 

“There is no gainsay that the extant Quarantine Act, CAP Q 2, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 which was enacted in 1926 is deficient for the purposes of enforcing quarantine and self-isolation of infected persons at or during the outbreak of dangerous contagious disease epidemics or pandemics in the country.

“Indeed, most of the aliments like cholera, plague, yellow fever, smallpox and typhus that warranted the enactment of the Quarantine Act of 1926 do not require the same quarantine measures as today’s complex and deadly epidemics such as ebola and Covid-19. 

“The passage of this Bill will effectively address these shortcomings and put in place a legislation that is up to date with modern realities regarding disease epidemics or pandemics,” he added. 

Utazi, however, emphasized that the piece of legislation most importantly, “is devoid of any controversial clauses and no individual will be subjected to forced immunization under the proposed legislation.”

According to the lawmaker, the Bill is made up of 72 clauses which are subdivided into eight parts. 

“Major highlights of the Bill include Part II which deals with important aspects of the Bill such as the power of the President, and in appropriate circumstances, the Governor of a State, to declare any place as an infected area at the outbreak of dangerous epidemics or pandemics; appointment of a Special task force for effective coordination of national remedial measures at the outbreak of dangerous infectious diseases.

“The sources of funding the activities of the task-force and other expenditure requirements during such public health emergencies are also articulated in clause 5, part II of the Bill. 

“Part iii of the Bill deals with the administration of the Bill which is mainly vested in the Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and his heath officers. 

“Part IV provides for the control of infectious diseases within the Federal Republic of Nigeria and provides the necessary safeguards on the powers of the DG NCDC by vesting supervisory powers on the Honourable Minister of Health.

“Clause 10, Part IV of the Bill also provides for public health surveillance to track trends, prevalence and patterns of disease outbreak in the Country during a National Health emergency period caused by sudden outbreak of dangerous infectious diseases. 

“Part V of the Bill deals with the prevention of international spread of infectious diseases where the President has reason to believe that a dangerous infectious disease may be introduced into Nigeria through International contacts borne by various modes of transportation while part VI of the Bill provides for enforcement measures by vesting certain powers on the National Centre for Disease Control in dealing with outbreaks and suspected outbreaks of infectious diseases. 

“This is without prejudice to the powers of the NCDC under its enabling Act. Part V“ gives certain rights to users of healthcare facilities or those in quarantine. These rights include right to privacy and confidentiality of their medical records except under permissible situation under the Bill or the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended. 

“Part Viii contains miscellaneous provisions such as the modalities for service of notices, etc, default in compliance, general offences and exemptions. By and large,this bill simply wants to protect the general populace from the debilitating impact of the outbreak dangerous infections disease”, Utazi explained. 

The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, referred the bill after scaling Second Reading to the Committee on Primary Health Care and Communicable Diseases for further legislative work.

The Committee is expected to report back in two weeks. 

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Legislature

Kogi Rainstorm: Senate wants NEMA to supply relief materials to affected areas

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Kogi Rainstorm: Senate wants NEMA to supply relief materials to affected areas

The Senate on Tuesday mandated its Committee on Special Duties to liaise with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to urgently supply relief and rehabilitation materials to Olamaboro communities of Kogi affected by rainstorm.
This, the upper chamber said was with a view to mitigating the sufferings of the victims.
The resolution was sequel to a Point of Order raised by Sen. Isah Jibrin (APC-Kogi) during plenary
The motion was titled “Urgent need for rehabilitation of communities affected by rainstorm in Olamaboro Local Government Area of Kogi”.
The upper chamber also mandated the Committee on Poverty Alleviation and Social Investment Programme (SIP), to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to provide minimal seed capitals for the victims in the affected communities.
This, the Senate said was to help in facilitating their various economic activities. 

Senator Jibrin while moving the motion expressed worry that with the commencement of the rains, over 200 residential buildings had been destroyed across many communities in the LGA in a rainstorm, following a heavy downpour on April 9.
“Apart from destruction of residential buildings, the devastating rainstorm also ravaged crops, farmlands, schools, worship houses, clinics and businesses in several communities in the LGA.He expressed the concern that many victims of the disaster sustained varying degrees of injury and are receiving medical attention at various health centres within the LGA and neighbouring LGAs.Hence he said, the disaster has created a serious humanitarian crisis as families are rendered homeless and their means of livelihood and properties woxth millions of naira destroyed by the rainstorm, thereby creating a situation of internal displacement.
He listed the major affected communities to inlude Ogugu Central, Ogane~0forachi, Emodida, Iyono, Emagaba No.1, Emenega, Emonoja-Aludu, Eegahimotu and Adupi Emoriko in Ogugu Dtstrict. In addition to many others within Okpo and Imane communities.

Contributing, Sen. Yakubu Oseni called on the Federal Government to provide succor to the  affected communities by coming to their aid

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Legislature

Nigeria can no longer Pretend, there are firearms in wrong Hands – Senator Bamidele

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Nigeria can no longer Pretend, there are firearms in wrong Hands – Senator Bamidele

By Joseph Sunday

The chairman Joint committee on Justice and Human Rights said the committee is trying to amend the act in a way that Nigeria can have a one stop shop in the maritime sector.

Senator Opeyemi stated this during the presentation of the Exclusive Economic zone Act amendment Bill and the Fire Arms amendment Bill by stakeholders.

The chairman told journalists that Nigeria cannot pretend, it has arms and ammunition in wrong hands.
“Stiffer punishment should be served as sanction to anyone in possession of fire arms without license.”

He said section 33(4) can take care of any lacuna in the act that has to do with management and ownership of our mineral resources. He posited that an amendment Bill can alter the constitution to provide for any additional property or minerals not covered by the constitution.

In another development, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele called on state Governors and other stakeholders to do the needful in the interest of the public by granting independence to the judiciary in their states. He said “no body stands to lose anything “
The national assembly has granted the judiciary independence at the Federal level through the passage of necessary laws.

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Legislature

Insecurity: Nigeria under siege, Senate raises the alarm

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Insecurity: Nigeria under siege, Senate raises the alarm

The Senate has raised the alarm that Nigeria is presently under siege from murderous non – state actors, whose activities are threatening the cooperate existence of the country.

To make the matter more scary records from the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), indicated that out of 500 million Illegal weapons circulating in West Africa, 350 million, which represents 70%, are domiciled in Nigeria for evil activities of criminally minded people .

Senator Uba Sani (APC Kaduna Central), Made the frightening submissions at the public hearing organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Navy and Marine Transport on Firearms Act 2004 ( Amendment) Bill 2021 and Exclusive Economic Zones Act 2010 ( Repeal and Re – Enactment) Bill 2021.

He said the country needs to urgently address the worrisome situation.

Sani the sponsor of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill lamented that proliferation of illegal arms and ammunition in the country with little or no control by relevant authorities has profound implications for collective survival of Nigerians and Nigeria.

He said, “We are gathered here to deal with a matter that has profound implications for our collective survival.

“We are under siege from murderous non – state actors. They have been acquiring arms illegally, maiming our people and threatening the continued existence of our dear Nation. 

“We either take measures to deny them of the oxygen that sustains their nefarious activities, or we watch helplessly as they overrun us and our country.”

The main aim of the proposed amendments to the Firearms Act, he explained, is to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms and bring the existing law in line with global best practices.

He lamented that “The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), recently reported that the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW) in Nigeria, has reached an alarming proportion.

“Analysts estimate that out of the 500 million weapons circulating in West Africa, 350 million, which represents 70% of such weapons, can be found in Nigeria.

“A pointer to this effect can be cited with the incidence of January 31st , 2017, when the Nigeria Customs Service confirmed the interception and seizure of 661 Pump Action Riffles imported from China into our country.

“More recently in Benue State, a local militia had the temerity to kill an Army Captain and 11 Soldiers not to talk of reign of terror in Owerri, Imo State by Gunmen who launched coordinated attacks on the Police headquarters and Correctional Centre .

“Something must be done urgently to curtail arms proliferation, the very reason for the proposed amendment bill on  the existing Firearms Act”, he said .

He listed the five major objectives of the amendment bill to include imposition of stiffer penalties for offences under the Act .

One of such penalties is the one under section 27 (sub section 1c), which proposed increase of fine from N1,000 to N1million .

Representative of Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshall Oladayo Amao, in his submission, objected to the N1million proposed fine on illegal possession of firearms arguing for its upward review to N2million.

Earlier in his opening remarks, the Chairman of the joint Commitee, Senator Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele (APC Ekiti Central), said the purpose of the two bills were to further strengthen the Nigerian extant laws against illegal firearms possession and proliferation as well as making provisions of the Act on Exclusive Economic Zone to be in line with global practices as far as protection of the Nation’s territorial sea or waters are concerned.

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