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We don’t legislate for states, federal parliament reply Governor forum over Infectious Diseases Bill

The House of Representatives has faulted the Nigerian Governors’ Forum for asking the federal parliament to step down the controversial Quarantine Act (Repeal and Enactment) Bill 2020.

The NGF had earlier on Wednesday asked the House to withdraw the bill and engage stakeholders on formulation of a popular one.

Reacting to the call, Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Benjamin Kalu, in a statement on Thursday, stated that the federal parliament does not legislate for states.

The statement partly read, “It has come to the attention of the House that the NGF has, through a communiqué at the end of its virtual meeting held on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, asked the House to step down the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020, which public hearing is already scheduled.

“In the communiqué, the NGF noted that, ‘Following an update from the Governor of Sokoto State and Vice Chairman of the NGF, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, on the proposed Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, 2020, introduced by the House, governors raised concern with the lack of consultation with State governments who are at the forefront of the epidemic.’

“The NGF said it ‘resolved that the bill should be stepped down until an appropriate consultative process is held, including a public hearing to gather public opinion and concerns.”

Kalu stated that contrary to the impression given in the NGF’s communiqué, the House had since subject the bill to a public hearing, where Nigerians from all walks of life would have the opportunity to make their inputs towards the draft legislation.

“The NGF’s position is coming rather belatedly,” he stated.

The statement further read, “However, the House wishes to state clearly that whilst it legislates for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including being the parliament for the Federal Capital Territory Abuja only, the NGF is recognised by members of the House as leading lights in the task of nation building.

“It is rather surprising that the NGF, in arriving at its decision, relied on ‘an update from the Governor of Sokoto State’ who, apart from being a lawyer, is a former Speaker and an ex-ranking member of the House, who should know better and guide the forum accordingly. We assume that his position was informed by his well-known personal and partisan opposition to the emergence of the current leadership of the House, considering his obvious stance in 2015 and 2019.

“Unlike in a constitution amendment matter where state Houses of Assembly have a defined constitutional role to play in effecting any review to it, bills such as the Control of Infectious Diseases are not by our constitution, subject of concurrence of state Houses of Assembly or state governors. We do believe that our respected governors are aware of this lawful processes of legislation and should not be misguided by a biased position of a former speaker.”

Kalu added, “Let it be known that the House, and indeed the National Assembly, are independent of the control of any state governor or former speaker, except if we want to change that now. Even at that, it has to be by a constitutional amendment sponsored by the citizens and not by the personal view of one governor and former speaker.

“Notwithstanding, the House expresses its readiness to work with the committee raised by the NGF to meet members of the Green Chamber on the bill. The governors are our critical stakeholders in nation building, and we understand the importance of working with our governors at critical moments such as this pandemic period.”

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