There has been a lot of controversy regarding the House of Representatives’ plan to pass a new NCDC bill. The new bill seeks to repeal the Quarantine Act and to enact a new regime for the prevention of infectious diseases in Nigeria. The Quarantine Act currently in use is outdated and unfit for purpose. The Act was enacted in 1926, before the second world war and thirty-four years before Nigeria became an independent nation.
The Control of Infectious Diseases Bill passed second reading in the House yesterday and will now go through the rest of the legislative process during which it will be subjected to extensive review by both the House and the Senate.
The Bill empowers the Director General of the NCDC to: Initiate public health surveillance programmes or undertake surveys of people, animals or vectors in order to determine the existence of or the possibility of an outbreak of infectious diseases.
Imagine a world where the DG of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control(NCDC) had the authority as far back as December or January to begin surveillance of travellers into the country.
Some may ask Why Repeal the Quarantine Act/Weaknesses of the Quarantine Act? Why now?Well the Quarantine Act is a colonial relic that was intended to operate in a different age and to meet the demands of a different reality. The Infectious diseases mentioned in the Quarantine Act are Typhus, cholera, smallpox, plague and yellow fever. That Act couldn’t have envisaged the coronavirus. Smallpox and plague have been eradicated while cholera and yellow fever are no longer death sentences.
Genuine Critics have criticized the bill because it grants police officers and health officers to arrest those who violate public health emergency orders issued by the President. Well. The Power to arrest without warrant is not new under Nigerian Law. Section 52 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act grants the police express authority to execute an arrest without a warrant where doing so is necessary to prevent the commission of an offence.
Some people have said that the Control of Infectious Disease Bill was plagiarized. Well, it is not uncommon for the laws of nations or sub national bodies to be based on laws that already exist in some other jurisdiction, or international conventions
In Nigeria, the following laws currently in existence are based on foreign legal texts;1. Child Rights Act of 2003 2. The Trafficking in Persons Prohibition) Act 3. Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act 2014.
There is no plagiarism controversy here except in the imagination of those promoting the organised campaign to keep the NCDC from being empowered to properly fight infectious diseases in the country.