.. Infection Disease Bill 2020 negates constitution

Former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, on Friday, faulted the Executive Order No. 10, noting that while the intent might be good, the action was unnecessary and unconstitutional.

Ekweremadu also picked holes with the controversial Control of Infections Disease Bill 2020 and the National Health Emergency Bill 2020 now before the National Assembly, explaining that they negated the Constitution and could not possibly succeed as currently drafted.

The former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review equally criticised the restriction of movements and other rights ordered by the Federal Government and several states in managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that while the restrictions were “absolutely necessary,” they “failed the constitutionalism test” and could only be overlooked on the grounds of Doctrine of Necessity.

He spoke in a radio interview in Enugu.

His words: “We, the members of the 8th Assembly, passed the amendment to the Constitution to grant financial autonomy to the State Judiciary and Legislature because we believed that for the sake of their independence, they should be on the First Line Charge of the states’ Consolidated Revenue Account.”

“And when we passed them, the President dutifully signed them into law (over a year ago).”

“That should have been the end of it because the amendments are self-executing.”

We expected that having done that, the states should go-ahead to work out the modalities. But that didn’t happen.

“So, the President now set up a committee headed by the Attorney-General of the Federation to work out the modalities for implementation.

“I think it was at that point that they deemed it necessary to come up with an Executive Order to strengthen the implementation.”

“But regrettably, they have simply mutilated those provisions of the Constitution as amended.”

“Now, they are adding some aspects suggesting to the states how to manage their funds because part of that Executive Order is that in the next three years, the judiciary in the states should dedicate part of the monies coming to them to capital projects for the State Judiciary.”

“It went ahead to suggest that if the governors fail to remit these monies to State Judiciary and State Legislature, then the President could direct that these monies be transferred straight from the Federation Account to the State Judiciary and Legislature.”

“This in itself was not part of what we amended in the Constitution and it is not part of the Constitution.”

On the way forward, Ekweremadu advised the Governors to approach the President and point out those mistakes so that he could withdraw the executive order.

“And unfortunately, if they go to court, the implication is that the application of that amendment regarding financial independence of the State Judiciary and State Assembly will be put on hold because so long as they are in court, those provisions will not be implemented.”

“So, it something the Governors and the Attorney General and the President need to settle amicably.”

On the infectious disease Bills before the National Assembly, he said the bill would not be passed by the National Assembly in its present form because “it appears to me that the Bill is even more dangerous than the diseases they are meant to control.”

“If you look at some parts of the Bill, it says if you have any problem with the order or actions of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), you have to appeal to the Minister and whatever the Minister says will be final.

“But Section 4 (8) of the Constitution says that no attempt should be made by the National Assembly or any State Assembly to make any law that ousts or purports to oust the jurisdiction of the court. In other words, you have the right to go to court if you have any issues.”

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