On April 28th, while many Nigerians were making those hilarious ass memes about the plans to ease the lockdown (how funny were those?), a bill to strengthen the powers of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (the organisation which has done commendable work in containing the spread of the coronavirus and Lassa fever in Nigeria) passed the second reading stage at the house of representatives.
The bill, sponsored by the speaker of the house of representatives – Femi Gbajabiamila, is intended to provide an appropriate framework for handling pandemic efforts. Therefore, should a variant of say the coronavirus, or lassa fever rear its head, this bill should ideally guide a quick-witted response to curbing its spread.
It will also empower the Nigerian police to arrest any and everybody rocking dreadlocks, watching a football match, returning from school etc — in furtherance of this motive.
Thanks to the very good work of David Hundeyin, a Nigerian journalist whose work has featured in CNN Africa, Business Day, The African Report, News Wire Nigeria etc, some of the rather worrying lapses in the Infectious Diseases Act, tagged the ‘NCDC bill’ by concerned Nigerians, have been brought to the fore.
The entirety of the bill is available here, but to have a quick peek at the most unsavoury proposed allowances, here are quick highlights:
The Director-General and the Minister of Health become really effing powerful
If you can correctly name Nigeria’s minister of health, you’re either a relative, studying for a big current affairs test or you probably work in media and communications. I could be wrong but whatever.
Now imagine this guy, whose name you probably don’t know, and whose office you had no real hand in voting into a reality, being able to declare your home, business, farm whatever, an isolation centre for the begs for clearer guidelines reason of “preventing the spread or possible outbreak of an infectious disease”.
This subsection also empowers the police or any health officer to arrest without warrant, any individual leaving said isolation centre.
Gee, I wonder if there’s a chance that this power will be abused by the police or the blank sheet of health workers now permitted to play good cop, bad cop with Nigerian freedoms.
The DG becomes really powerful, part deux
Imagine this. It’s ten years post-corona, you, family and some friends visiting from LA are holding a socially distant party outside your home. You’re about to tell the children present how we all had to walk 10 miles to get good cell reception during 2020s lockdown, when a health or police officer walks into your home and tells everyone they are not to leave the premises for the next 14 days because it ‘appeared’ to the DG of the NCDC that your gathering is likely to see the spread of an infectious disease.
Section 20 of the NCDC bill could allow that:
Nigerian Police: license to play health officers
Man, like the Nigerian police isn’t wreaking enough havoc, you want to give them powers to apprehend people for health issues too? Bruh.
Check section 24 out. E be tins.
Why does the Infectious Diseases Act want access to my super secret diary?
S 55 empowers the DG of the NCDC to acquire any document, book or record required for the investigation of any outbreak or suspected outbreak.
Wetin concern viral outbreak concern personal documents and data? So forget to right to privacy then?
You can read David Hundeyin’s breakdown of the bill here. What do you think of the proposed legislation?