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The attention of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has been drawn to the recent worrisome development in the House of Representatives, with regard to the controversy surrounding the National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC Bill, captioned “Infectious Disease Bill” presumably meant to ‘strengthen the NCDC’. The Bill was introduced by the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila on Tuesday, 28 April 2020.

The party has been reliably briefed that the consideration of the Bill was not made in line with the established tradition of Bill consideration. The necessary documents were not distributed to Members for them to study, in order for them to come to proper understanding of its content before it was presented and hurriedly made to pass the First and Second readings.

It is also curious to discover that the Bill, in an unprecedented manner, was made to scale Third reading and is now only left for passage! The Bill is of great interest to Nigerians and should not have been railroaded by the House of Representatives through 1st and 2nd readings.

Considering, the rancour which accompanied the hasty processing of the Bill and the objections raised by some concerned members who, rightfully and rightly, pointed out some of the contents of the Bill considered to be against the interest and fundamental rights of the Nigerian people, the Social Democratic Party, as a pro-people political party that will never compromise on due process or compromise on the rights of the Nigerian people, hereby condemns the apparent circumventing of the process and the lack of transparency in the handling of the Bill. We therefore call on the leadership of the House of Representatives to halt the passage of this controversial Infectious Disease Bill forthwith and subject the Bill to thorough debate by all Members and conduct public hearings as may be necessary. We hereby urge other political parties and civil societies to resist any hasty attempt to pass this Bill without undergoing due process.

The foregoing position of our party in this matter is consequent upon some of the very disturbing provisions of the Bill which have been identified as arrogating unlimited powers to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to enforce compulsory vaccination of all Nigerians and that failure by people to have the vaccine would result in their being deprived of their entitlements and rights of free movement, including prevention from purchase of travel tickets and boarding flights.

We note the fact that the whole world, including Nigeria, is in a frenzy to overcome the albatross of the Coronavirus. Every country is looking for a safety net against Covid-19 to protect her citizens and national economy. We also note that there are several external factors and forces that may have come into play to ginger or arm-twist or stampede a country like Nigeria. Notwithstanding, the Social Democratic Party will not support unwarranted rush to pass such an important Bill without undergoing due process. We therefore wish to caution the National Assembly on the implications and consequences of this untoward move to trample on the rights of Nigerian citizens.

It is unnecessary to connect the Bill with any conspiracy theories as some may be suggesting because even the so-called superpowers are struggling for survival right now and striving hard to find a cure or vaccine for coronavirus and Nigeria may not have found her own locally produced vaccine at this time. However, it is critical for the National Assembly to come out clean and transparent on this Bill; more so, it is in the interest of the people the House members are representing that all Bills must go through due process and public hearings when necessary. The Social Democratic Party wishes to make it clear that if this Bill is further processed without due process or carrying the people along, it will be rejected by the party as well as by all patriotic and fair-minded Nigerians. The House of Representatives is therefore advised to desist from any clandestine moves to smuggle the Bill through.

In this wise, SDP calls on the President of the Federal Republic to remind him that the people who freely elected him are expecting the best from him and the National Assembly. The Party also wishes to impress it on all concerned that it is better to ere on the side of caution, and so our National Assembly members should not do or subscribe to anything that would make the public perceive them as mercantile politicians. They should be mindful not to expose the country to any further crisis but, instead, focus on what are necessary to reduce tension in the land and bring about rapid post-Covid-19 economic recovery for all Nigerians.

Professor Tunde Adeniran OFR,
Social Democratic Party (SDP)
Abuja. 30 April 2020

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