When he rushed the infectious and disease bill through first and second reading on April 28, little did the Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila knows that his ‘toxic’ bill will become so contentious.
Right from the onset, it was glaring that the Speaker with his ‘copy and paste’ approach of 1977 Singaporian law even without doing due diligence with the array of aides at his beck and call was courting problem. And immediately he started the process, all hell was let loose. A group based in Osun state , the Living Science Foundation raises an objection to the clause that makes the vaccine mandatory and forfeiture of assets. To LSF, these clauses were breached of fundamental human rights which is sine qua non in the ground norm, which is the constitution. Besides, the alleged involvement of Microsoft billionaire, Bill Gates and other globalists makes the bill so controversial. In fact, the spokesman of CUPP, Ugo Chinyere, while condemning the bill alleged that $10million dollars have exchanged hands in bribery to fast track the bill. Other civil society groups have also raised objection to the clause which makes the vaccine mandatory and the ‘arbitrary’ power that the bill if passed will confer on the Director General of NCDC.
Also, the Director General of the Nigeria Centre of Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who raised an objection to the timing of the bill was unbraided by Gbajabiamila for speaking against the bill. Now, that the Nigeria Governors Forum, an umbrella for Nigerian Governors has spoken that the Speaker and his co sponsors of the bill who seem determined to pass the bill as soon as possible should step down the bill for now, the Speaker was angry that it was uncalled for. Why is Gbajabiamila so desperate to see this bill through despite obvious lapses and the infringement on human rights? Was he sponsored as it’s being alleged in some quarters? Why has he directed his anger towards some of the governors? Was he angry at the previous political arrangement that went awry? These are some of the questions agitating the minds of those who were surprised initially when Gbajabiamila said because of the emergency, the bill could become law without subjecting it to scrutiny vide public hearing.
Even in the United States of America, there are allegations and counter allegations about those responsible for the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The US President , Mr. Donald Trump has been unsparing in his Attack on Chinese government for the escalation of the virus.
More worrisome is the fact that the way and manner Gbajabiamila introduced and try to force the bill through speaks volumes. Again, his experience in law making as fifth term legislator is being called to question by his attitude to those who seem to be against the bill.
Speaking in the same vein, a former member of the House of Representatives, Victor Afam Ogene, has called on the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, and indeed the 9th House of Representatives, to rise above personal sentiment in the discharge of their official duties.
Speaking against the backdrop of the House response to the position of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) on the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020, Ogene, former Deputy Chairman, Media and Public Affairs, House of Representatives in the 7th National Assembly, wondered how what ought to be a measured reaction to an issue of public interest turned out to be a platform for scapegoating.
In contending that the governors were “misguided by the biased position of a former Speaker”, the House obviously chose to demean the fact that no fewer than 12 of the governors had left indelible imprints as former legislators as well as many others who served as Speakers of federal and state parliaments.
“All the NGF had requested was that the Bill be stepped down for wider consultations, a position already widely canvassed by the media, civil society and concerned Nigerians.
“In fact, the Bill, which in an audacious manner seeks to abridge the rights of Nigerians, has generated so much furore that former Senator Dino Melaye besides describing it as “satanic” went ahead to initiate court processes to halt its further consideration.
“It is rather unfortunate that instead of heeding these voices of restraints and reasoning, Gbajabiamila through the House Spokesman, Ben Kalu (APC, Abia), decided to engage in a roforofo fight with an imaginary enemy.
“In choosing to blame Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, and vice chairman of the NGF for whatever his political woes were, Gbajabiamila perhaps unwittingly lent credence to the widely held view among parliamentarians that he hardly rises above self.
“Nigerians would recall that the opposition against Gbajabiamila’s quest for Speakership centred around the issue of being not just fit but also proper for the position, hence the coinage, “fit and proper.”
“Thus, while many may readily agree that the Speaker, given his long presence in the nation’s legislature, may be fit for the job, the reality remains that he is yet to prove that he is proper for the Speakership role thrust upon him.
“Indeed, anyone who is integrity-challenged ought not engage in a needless public spar.
“As a stakeholder in the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives, it is my feeling that the 9th House still has enough time to devote itself to pro-people legislations, as against dwelling upon elections far gone by”.
Will Gbajabiamila heeds the cacophony of voices against his vexatious bill and step it down or continue to push for its passage? Definitely, time will tell.