Something is underfoot in the Nigerian senate. In an unprecedented move for a legislature that is notorious for dragging its feet on bills like the Gender Equality Bill and the Sexual Harassment Bills for universities, the senate breezed through first and second readings for an Infectious Diseases Bill that grants the federal government, among other powers, to force vaccinations for all Nigerians and grants them the right confiscate private property and convert them into isolation centers to treat diseases. The Nigerian senate has defended its actions, suggesting that it is rushing through the bill on behalf of the Nigerian Centre For Disease Control (NCDC) as the organization weathers personnel and equipment shortages as it tries to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus.
In an interview with the Guardian, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu the NCDC Director General informed journalists the bill in the senate had been formulated and presented to the Senate without the assistance of the NCDC. In his own words:
“Every country needs strong public health laws to keep citizens safe. This is one of the roles of the legislative arm of our government that we are grateful for. However, the development of a public health bill requires widespread consultation, as there are various stakeholders involved. The middle of a pandemic might not be the best time for this. We are still learning from this response. What we learn from this response should drive interventions such as new laws, if needed. Public health laws are critical for health security.”
This isn’t surprising because news has surfaced that the Infectious Diseases Bill before the Senate is actually a plagiarization of a similar bill presented and passed by the Singaporean Senate. Singapore is a near dictatorship that uses repressive laws to control the actions of its citizens. This isn’t the first bill that has been stolen from Singapore and repurposed for Nigeria. A few months ago, Nigerians held a nationwide protest against ‘Hate Speech’ Bill that sought permission to hang citizens for accusations of propagating fake news. Considering the bill was sponsored by the speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and supported by PJascal OBi and Tanko Sanunu, its fraudulent origins must be considered. Where then is the punishment for plagiarism at the highest levels of government?
There has been a lot of mistrust around the motivations of the Nigerian senate, and this attempt to undermine the human rights of the average Nigerian is yet another egregious error that must not be forgiven. It is especially worrying because anyone who has worked in public health in Nigeria knows how deadly fake news and misinformation can be for public health officials and the violence with which misinformed communities will respond to threats to their autonomy. This pointless bill must be repealed immediately or amended to respect human rights.