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Compulsory vaccination bill introduced by Nigerian Senators despite outcry4 minutes read

Unlike the bill introduced last week at the House of Representatives, Senators were not allowed to see the content of the bill before or during its First Reading, triggering questions and opposition to its Second reading.

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The Nigerian Senate at plenary./National Assembly photo.

A controversial bill that hopes to get all Nigerians vaccinated compulsorily against infectious diseases including Covid-19 was on Tuesday introduced by senators after a previous version in the House of Representatives generated heated public debates last week.

The House bill also seeks to compulsorily convert the property of individuals into isolation centres during any infectious disease outbreak.

Some Nigerians got back to their representatives asking them not to support the bill as it had the imprint of western donors like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

They argued especially on social media that compulsory vaccination was a ploy to reduce the fertility rate of Nigerians and the country’s population as championed by some Western researchers and donors.

The Infectious Disease Control Bill also known as the “National Health Emergency Bill” was Tuesday introduced by Senator Chukwuka Utazi to tackle the COVID 19 pandemic among other diseases. Utazi heads the Senate Committee on Communicable Diseases and Primary Healthcare.

But unlike the House of Representatives, Senators were not allowed to see the content of the bill before or during its First Reading, triggering questions and opposition to its Second reading.

One Senator who would have none of that is Senator Ike Ekweremadu. He challenged the Senate leadership for hiding the bill and not making it accessible to lawmakers ahead of time.

Senator Ekweremadu who is also the immediate past Deputy Senate President demanded for a gazetted copy of the controversial Bill so that lawmakers would know its content and how to address their constituents.

“I rely on Order 41 of the Senate Standing Rule. As a senator, I am entitled to know the details of this Bill”, Ekweremadu said.

“There is controversy over the same Bill in the House of Representatives. We don’t want to have the same issue here. We need to be guided to avoid any backlash. I need to read it and prepare ahead of time”, the federal lawmaker said.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan was left with no choice at this moment. He directed the Senate Clerk to make copies of the Bill available to all Senators.

Lawan ruled that the second reading of the Bill will take place next week after Senators must have seen the proposed law.

“The copies are ready and everybody will get a copy. We are not taking the second reading immediately. That will be done next week. So, members will have the time to read the contents of the Bill”, Lawan said.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila had last Tuesday sponsored the “Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020” at the lower chamber where it got accelerated hearing and passed First and Second Readings despite protest by some lawmakers.

The House bill however generated much public controversy as critics said some provisions of the bill are inapplicable in a democratic setting. Some even accused Gbajabiamila of accepting bribes from Bill Gates to pass the proposed legislation.

“None of these allegations are true. Unfortunately, we now live in a time when conspiracy theories have gained such currency that genuine endeavours in the public interest can quickly become mischaracterised and misconstrued to raise the spectre of sinister intent and ominous possibility”, Speaker Gbajabiamila said on Tuesday upon resumption of plenary.

“This House of Representatives will never, take any action that purposes to bring harm to any Nigerian here at home or abroad”, Gbajabiamila said.

Lawyers and many other Nigerians have described the bill as draconian and suspicious.

There were also accusations that the sponsors largely plagiarised a similar law on infectious disease control by Singapore.

A former Senator, Dino Melaye, in a tweet on Monday, stated that he had taken legal action against Gbajabiamila and others for failing to withdraw the contentious bill.

“I have just filed a court action against the Speaker and House of Representatives on the wicked bill initiated by Hon Femi Gbajabiamila this morning at the Federal High Court Abuja. We shall overcome,” Melaye wrote.

The Senate on Tuesday also directed its committees on health, communications, science and technology to investigate the status of 5G in the country and its health impact on citizens.

The Senate resolution of the followed a motion sponsored by Senator Uche Ekwunife, representing Anambra central.

Senator Ekwunife said there was a need for the technology to be investigated owing to concerns by some experts that emissions from the 5G masts could adversely affect the health of people considering the COVID 19 Pandemic.

 “There is no conclusive proof, nor has it been universally established that the deployment of the 5G network is either harmful to the human body, or is anyway linked to the global pandemic of COVID-19,” she said.

 Senator Ekwunife said “investigating the true status of 5G network in Nigeria (is) to ensure that Nigerian citizens are not exposed to unreasonable risk of great bodily harm or injury.”

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Politics

Court orders rearrest of Lesotho ex-first lady in murder trial

Maesaiah Thabane is suspected of orchestrating the shooting of Lipolelo Thabane, who was gunned down outside her home in the capital Maseru.

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Former Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Thabane (L) and his wife Maesaiah Thabane sit at the Magistrate Court in Maseru, Lesotho, on February 24, 2020. AFP

Lesotho’s Court of Appeal has ordered the rearrest of former first lady Maesaiah Thabane after revoking her bail on murder charges over the killing of her husband’s estranged wife in 2017.

The 42-year-old was charged in February after police quizzed her on the brutal murder of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s wife two days before his inauguration.

She spent one night in jail, after which Lesotho’s High Court freed her on a 1,000 maloti ($57) bail, according to AFP.

“The decision… is set aside and the bail petition is remitted back to the High Court to be determined by a different judge,” Court of Appeal president Kananelo Mosito ruled on Friday.

Police said Maesaiah Thabane would be arrested and handed over to correctional service officials later on Friday.

“As soon as we get the written judgement… we will arrest her,” deputy police commissioner Paseka Mokete told AFP.

Maesaiah Thabane is suspected of orchestrating the shooting of Lipolelo Thabane, who was gunned down outside her home in the capital Maseru.

Police have also charged her for the attempted murder of Lipolelo Thabane’s friend Thato Sibolla, who was wounded at the scene.

Lipolelo and Thomas Thabane, now 81, had been embroiled in bitter divorce proceedings when the 48-year-old was killed.

The former prime minister agreed to step down in January after police linked his mobile number to communication records from the crime scene.

He officially resigned this month, bowing to pressure from his rivals who accused him of hampering investigations into Lipolelo’s death.

Thabane has denied any involvement in the murder.

His wife initially went into hiding after police first called her in to testify in January.

She has not yet been allowed to respond to the charges.

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Politics

Niger passes new wire-tapping law to fight terrorism despite opposition

The opposition decried “the will of those in power to deprive Nigeriens… of all privacy in their communications.”

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Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou

Niger’s parliament has adopted a new legislation authorising wiretapping as a means of curbing “terrorism and transnational criminality”, brushing off an opposition protest walkout.

The new law permits “research of information” which notably may “threaten state security” or “prevent the fight against terrorism and organised transnational crime” in a country large swathes of which are in thrall to jihadist conflict, an AFP report said Friday.

Opposition parties are concerned that the country’s constitution holds that “secrecy of correspondence and of communications is inviolable”.

Under the new law, “obtained proofs can be used in investigations and criminal prosecutions initiated by judicial authorities, “with communications intercepted by “competent technical services” who will target “any person against whom there are serious reasons” to proceed.

Barkai Issouf, minister overseeing relations with institutions, insisted that “this law is not a threat to liberty. It is indispensable and emanates form the government’s wish to secure our people”.

Justice Minister Marou Amadou played down the move, saying: “You feared being listened in on? Well, you were before and you still are — only now it will be organised.”

In a statement, the opposition decried “the will of those in power to deprive Nigeriens… of all privacy in their communications.”

It added “this law will allow surveillance of all Nigeriens, as well as all those who live in Niger under the false pretexts” of maintaining security and fighting terrorism.

Niger has endured repeated unrest in its west near its borders with Mali and Burkina Faso from rival jihadi groups as well as in its southeast from Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa, a breakaway group from Boko Haram.

There have been several recent incursions including a massacre in which 20 people were massacred earlier this month.

In the same immense and unstable region of Tillaberi, which covers 100,000 square kilometres (40,000 square miles) and runs into the three-border area of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, three attacks on the army since December left 174 soldiers dead, according to an official report.

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East Africa Politics News

Court sets Tanzanian opposition leader free despite being guilty for sedition

In a written order setting out conditions for Kabwe’s discharge, Magistrate Huruma Shaidi said Kabwe should commit no seditious offence for a period of one year, and if he did, he would be liable to be sentenced for the offence.

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Zitto Kabwe, local lawmaker and head of ACT Wazalendo party.

A Tanzanian opposition leader found guilty of sedition and incitement on accusations that he falsely said some 100 people were killed in clashes between herders and police in his home region in 2018 was on Friday set free by a Dar es Salaam court.

Zitto Kabwe, a local lawmaker and head of ACT Wazalendo party was set free on condition that he refrain from saying or writing anything that would be considered sedition to the government.

Kabwe, who is member of parliament for Kigoma urban constituency, in western Tanzania, was charged in November 2018 with three counts related to incitement after saying that 100 people were killed in clashes between herders and police in the region, a Reuters report said.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

At the time, the head of police in Kigoma said just two herdsmen and two officers had died during an operation to stop pastoralists keeping livestock illegally on a government-owned ranch.

Huruma Shaidi, principal magistrate of Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s court in Dar es Salaam, said he found Kabwe guilty on all three counts.

In a written order setting out conditions for Kabwe’s discharge, Shaidi said Kabwe should commit no seditious offence for a period of one year, and if he did, he would be liable to be sentenced for the offence.

Kabwe’s defence lawyers said they were going to appeal the verdict.

“Zitto Kabwe is a politician and we are in the elections period, we are going to appeal this ruling to clear him,” Jebra Kambole, Kabwe’s lead counsel, told reporters outside the court.

Kabwe split away from the main opposition CHADEMA movement in 2015 and is now his party’s only lawmaker.

The East African country has been one of the continent’s most stable, but opposition leaders and rights groups have accused the government of cracking down on dissent – an accusation it dismisses.

Tanzania is expected to hold presidential, parliamentary and local government elections in October.

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