Weeks to end of tenure, senator hopeful Buhari may assent to health emergency bill

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Ibrahim Oloriegbe, has said he is hopeful that President Muhammadu Buhari will assent to the Public Health Emergency Bill before he leaves office on 29 May.

Mr Oloriegbe, while speaking at a media roundtable alongside other legislators in Abuja on Tuesday, said the ninth assembly would continue to push to ensure that the bill is assented to by the President.

Mr Oloriegbe, a lawmaker representing Kwara Central Senatorial District, said the Public Health Emergency Bill, when approved, would revoke the 96-year-old Quarantine Act and establish a framework for managing public health emergencies of national and international concern.

He noted that the bill, which the Senate passed in January 2022, would be harmonised with the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill presented by the House of Representatives.

“As at the time we had COVID-19, it was the Quarantine Act that we had. There was a debate that led to the repeal of the Quarantine Act and the enactment of a new public health law. A version of that law was passed in the House, and one was passed in the Senate,” he said.

“We are at the stage of harmonisation now. I am chairing a committee in the Senate and plan to call a joint meeting to consider and adopt a version that we will jointly present.”

He said if the bill is not assented to, the 10th Assembly will follow up and ensure its success.

The roundtable, which was themed: “Strengthening Health Security in Nigeria through Public Health Legislation,” was organised by the Nigeria Health Watch in partnership with the Global Health Advocacy Incubator.

The bill

The bill titled, “A Bill for an Act to Provide for an Effective National Framework for the Control of Outbreaks of Infectious Diseases and Other Events Endangering Public Health and Requiring Public Health Emergency Measures and For Other Related Matters (SB. 413)” was first introduced to the Senate in 2020.

The legislation, which seeks to repeal the 96-year-old Quarantine Act, is sponsored by Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu North).

If signed into law, it would establish a legal and administrative framework for handling outbreaks of infectious and contagious diseases that portend a significant threat to public health safety within Nigeria or are likely to be transmitted into Nigeria or outside Nigerian borders.

Health emergencies

In her remarks, the Managing Director of Nigeria Health Watch, Vivianne Ihekweazu, said public health emergencies can have devastating consequences for individuals, communities, and entire countries, as witnessed with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms Ihekweazu said all hands must be on deck to ensure the country is fully prepared for future health emergencies.

She noted that the media roundtable is a unique opportunity for experts to share their views on the proposed public health bills.

“The bills have significant implications for public health in the country and must be thoroughly examined and discussed by key stakeholders in the health sector,” she said.

Speaking at the event, the Chairman House Committee on Health Services, Tanko Sununu, noted that public health law and policy are vital tools for shielding Nigerians from health threats, preventing diseases, and promoting healthy populations.

Mr Sununu said public health not only offers adequate and timely medical care but also monitors, tracks, and controls disease outbreaks, making it an essential element of National security.

He said by accelerating efforts to pass and implement the bills; the government would be demonstrating its commitment to protecting the health and well-being of Nigerians and ensuring that the country is better equipped to respond to any future public health emergencies.

He said the National Assembly has played a significant role in combating infectious disease outbreaks in the country.


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