The Senate Tuesday introduced its own Infectious Disease Control Bill under a new name.
The Bill titled: “National Health Emergency Bill” sponsored by the Chairman Senate Committee on Communicable Diseases and Primary Healthcare, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (Enugu North) scaled first reading on Tuesday.
Recall that a Bill titled: “Control of Infection Diseases Bill 2020” sponsored by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, was passed for both first and reading in the House of Representatives last week Tuesday.
The House Bill has however generated a lot of controversy as critics say that some of the provisions in the bill appear “draconian” and therefore “not tenable in a democratic setting.”
The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) alleged that lawmakers had been offered $10million to pass the Bill, while Senator Dino Melaye has filed an action at the Federal High Court Abuja, seeking to stop further consideration of the Bill by the House.
Some Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are said to be mobilising to shoot down the Bill.
Many senators appear not to be in support of the bill.
However, after the Bill was read for the first time in the Senate, former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, demanded for a gazetted copy of the Bill.
Ekweremadu who relied on Order 41 of the Senate Standing Rules, said the Bill is already generating controversies in the House of Representatives.
He insisted that as a senator, he has the privilege of going through the Bill before being read for the second time.
Ekweremadu said: “I rely on Order 41 of the Senate Standing Rule. As a senator, I am entitled to know the details of this Bill.
“We want to have copies of the gazetted copies. There is controversy over the same Bill in the House of Representatives.
“We don’t want to have the same issue here. We need to be guided to avoid any backlash. I need to read it and prepare ahead of time.”
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan directed the Secretariat of the Senate to make copies of the Bill available to all Senators.
He ruled that the second reading of the Bill will take place next week after Senators must have the Bill.
Lawan said: “The copies are ready and everybody will get a copy. We are not taking the second reading immediately. That will be done next week. So, members will have the time to read the contents of the Bill.”
Also Tuesday, the Senate sent the list of President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominees for confirmation as chairman and members of the Federal Character Commission (FCC) to the Senate Committee on FCC for screening.
However, the Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe called on the Senate to adhere to the Federal Character principles, in line with the 1999 Constitution, (as amended) in confirming the nominees.
He noted that already, the Secretary of the Commission is from the North and queried why the Chairman should again be appointed from the same region.
Abaribe had earlier submitted a petition from Abia State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), urging the Senate to halt the confirmation of the nominees.
Abaribe said: “Section 14(3) is explicit on this issue of Federal Character. We can’t ignore it. The Federal Character Commission has a Secretary who is from the Northern part of Nigeria. In order to respect the principles of Federal Character, the Secretary and Chairman shouldn’t come from the same part of the country.
“I urge the Committee to ensure that they follow the principles of Federal Character while considering this issue. National interest should come first.”
Lawan, while referring the list to the Committee on Federal Character, urged members to adhere to what the law says.
Lawan said: “The Committee should do their job in line with what the law says. That’s the only thing they will rely on. Nothing else.”
Also Tuesday, the Senate observed a one-minute appreciation silence in honour of health workers in the frontline of battle against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) as well as their members who have died as a result of the pandemic.
The Senate also observed a minute silence in honour of a former Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Mohammed Goni who died last week.