The Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu says the Infectious Disease Control Bill intends to confer too much powers on the office of the NCDC.
Ihekweazu made the observation at a public hearing on the bill, organised by the House of Representatives Joint Committees on Health Services, Health Institutions and Justice in Abuja.
“The bill as drafted, gives excessive powers to the director general of the NCDC, it should be clearly evaluated for the future of our country,” he said.
Ihekweazu said the bill should recognise other competent authorities involved in the management of public heath emergencies such as NAFDAC and other relevant government agencies.
He said that there was a need to legislate on the coordination of federal, state and local government areas to recognise the capacity of the NCDC to discharge its roles effectively across the various tiers of government.
Ihekweazu said that the NCDC was being held accountable for failures across the various tiers of governments and took unnecessary responsibility for things that normally was the responsibility of states and local government areas.
According to him, the bill should recognise the one health strategy we have adopted in Nigeria to promote further integration and coordination across all levels of government, especially with the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment.
“In order for the NCDC to effectively carry out its responsibilities, it is pertinent for a legal framework on managing infectious diseases, that specifically empowers the NCDC to obtain the relevant data from the states.
“The management of an outbreak has to be quick, therefore the access to funds required for NCDC to maintain laboratories, procure equipment, development and disseminate information is critical.
“It is therefore critical to establish a fund for this purpose and clearly stipulates how it will be financed or else history will repeat itself.
“The bill as it is currently, does not adequately safeguard human right; the emphasis on the use of force to achieve the objectives may exacerbate the existing challenges, generate public resistance and undermine the efforts of NCDC and other competent authorities to manage outbreak of infectious diseases,” he said.
Earlier, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said that some provisions of the proposed bill are contained in other enactments of the National Assembly.
He said that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Establishment) Act, 2018 and the Quarantine Act, 1926 which the bill sought to repeal were examples of such acts.
“In view of this and the fact that the director-general of the NCDC is vested with powers to administer and implement the provisions of the bill, it will seem that the NCDC will be implementing two acts of parliament.
“Consequently, it is recommended that the provisions of the proposed bill be incorporated into the NCDC Act by amending the NCDC Act, 2018, thus giving it more powers and responsibilities.
“This recommendation is in consonance with the objective of the NCDC Act to protect Nigerians from the impact of communicable diseases of public health importance provided for, under relevant sections of the NCDC Act.
“This will further strengthen these existing legislations and avoid conflict and duplication of functions which the proposed bill will likely create,” he said.
The minister frowned at the sections of the bill which sought to vest enormous powers on the director general of the NCDC with no recourse to the NCDC Board.
“In view of the foregoing, it will be difficult for the NCDC to exercise the functions assigned to it under two separate enactments thereby defeating the very essence of enacting the infectious disease bill which to a large extent, is intended to complement the NCDC Act, 2018,” he said.