Compulsory vaccination bill introduced by Nigerian Senators despite outcry

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.

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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