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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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Libya’s General Khalifa Haftar Agrees To Lift Oil Blockade

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Self-styled Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), has said he would temporarily lift his blockade of the country’s oil production facilities.

Speaking on television, Haftar said that he has decided to allow the reopening of Libya’s oil ports “as per conditions and guarantees that ensure a fair distribution of wealth and spare it being plundered or used in terrorism financing.”

This the parliament in eastern Libya, which backed Haftar, resigned following protests in Benghazi and other cities over power cuts and deteriorating living conditions.

Ezzel-Deen al-Falih, a spokesman for the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), said Prime Minister Abdallah al-Thani tendered the government’s resignation to Speaker Aguila Saleh late on Sunday.

Haftar said Friday’s announcement about lifting the oil blockade followed an agreement with the UN-backed government in Tripoli under which oil revenues would be distributed fairly.

A government minister has said a committee would be set up to oversee the handling of the revenue.

But the national oil company says it won’t resume operations until Gen Haftar’s forces leave the production facilities.

His blockade – which began January – has starved the Libyan economy of billions of dollars of desperately needed export earnings.

Before the blockade, Libya was producing around 1.2 million barrels per day compared to just over 100,000 barrels per day, according to Reuters.

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AU Backs Call For Mali Junta To Hand Over To Civilian

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The African Union (AU) has backed calls by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that the military junta in Mali appoint civilians to lead the country’s 18-months transition.

The military had overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali on August 18 in a bloodless coup, prompting sanctions from the 15-member regional bloc.

ECOWAS has insisted that the Colonel Assimi Goita-led National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) return Mali to civilian rule. The bloc also demanded that a civilian be named as head of the transition government.

The junta is yet to heed ECOWAS demand despite a deadline expiring on Tuesday. Instead, the junta, which had earlier proposed a two-year transition plan, released a charter reducing the transition period to 18 months.

Now the AU has urged the military junta in Mali to quickly appoint civilian leaders to manage an 18-month transition towards elections.

The AU Peace and Security Commissioner Smail Chergui called for a return to constitutional order.

The AU announced the day after the coup that it was suspending Mali “until restoration of constitutional order”, and it is unclear what additional leverage it has.

Mali’s military rulers met West African leaders this week but the soldiers who seized power appear reluctant to let a civilian lead the transition.

A spokesman for the junta, Colonel Ismael Wague, said after this week’s talks in Ghana that Mali could face a “total embargo” from ECOWAS if it does not quickly appoint civilian leaders.

The sanctions could bite in the poor country already facing a severe economic downturn as well as a simmering jihadist insurgency and chronic inter-ethnic violence.

Wague nevertheless made clear the junta would prefer the transition be run by the military, and claimed that was also the preference of the majority of Malians.

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Libya Prime Minister’s Planned Resignation Upsets Turkey

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The planned resignation of Libya’s internationally recognised Prime Minister has upset Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.

Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, an ally to Turkey, had on Wednesday announced his intention to step down from office next month end.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul on Friday, Erdogan said a Turkish delegation will hold talks on the issue with the al-Sarraj-government in the coming weeks.

“A development like this, hearing such news, has been upsetting for us,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, adding: “with these meetings, God willing we will turn this issue towards the direction it needs to go.”

Sarraj is head of the Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli, while eastern Libya and much of the south is controlled by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). His departure could lead to infighting among senior GNA figures.

The civil war has drawn in regional and international powers and Turkey supports the GNA, while the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia back the LNA.

Turkey helped the GNA turn back a 14-month LNA assault on Tripoli in June.

Sarraj’s had on August 21 announced a ceasefire in hostilities with the LNA.

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