By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
65 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the country have commended the House of Representatives for agreeing to conduct public hearing on the controversial Infectious Diseases Bill, but sought for clarity over the committee that is handling the public hearing.
The CSOs also urged the house of Representatives to make available the details of the bill for them to study it before the public hearing.
In a joined statement issued and endorsed by the 65 CSOs including Yiaga Africa, Yiaga Africa, Girl Child Africa, Center for Liberty, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Say No Campaign, Amnesty International and EiE Nigeria, said they commend the decision of the House of Representatives to subject the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill to a public hearing in furtherance of the right of citizens to contribute to law making.
“Harnessing the inputs of critical stakeholders and the Nigerian people, for whom the bill is proposed, gives it the necessary legitimacy. The decision, as announced by the Honorable Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, who is also one of the sponsors of the Bill, is an acknowledgment of the sincere concerns generated by the Bill.
“Soliciting public inputs therefore responds to the demands to subject the Bill to public scrutiny given its sensitivity and impact on constitutionally guaranteed rights, rule of law, institutional interdependence and national security. Public scrutiny can only be achieved through broad based engagements during public hearings and stakeholder consultations,” the groups said.
However, the CSOs said the house should provide information on the committee responsible for the coordination of public hearing, communicate a practical schedule for public engagement on the Bill, host a virtual and physical public hearing, consult multi-layered stakeholder and
should intensify publicity on the Bill.
“Considering the sensitivity of the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, we cannot afford a rushed or haphazard process. It is important that the National Assembly prioritize and invest in building public trust and confidence to limit the spread of disinformation or misinformation on the Bill.
“The legislature remains the legitimate core of democracy and must therefore represent the voices of WE the people. The Control of Infectious Diseases Bill must be comprehensive, futuristic in nature, and in conformity with; the Constitution, Nigeria’s international human rights obligations, and democratic principles. Any legislative process that does not guarantee the active and free participation of the people fails in its purpose and will not be accepted,” the group added.