By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The court, in a ruling by Judge Ijeoma Ojukwu, said it lacked jurisdiction to revoke a bill that has not yet been enacted.
Judge Ojukwu argued that the court’s judicial powers could only be exercised with respect to a law that had been enacted, stressing that Melaye’s lawsuit is not prosecutable as the National Assembly is still deliberating on the bill.
Based on the doctrine of separation of powers, the court said that at this time it was unable to determine whether the content of the bill would constitute a serious violation of the fundamental rights of the applicant.
However, the court noted that the concerns Melaye raised in the lawsuit were “serious,” and said that “it is up to Defendants to take a second look at the Bill.”
Melaye, who until now represented Kogi West in the Senate, had her FHC / ABJ / CS / 463/2020 marked fundamental rights compliance, maintained that various parts of the proposed law that is intended to amend the Quarantine of 1926, they are unconstitutional, illegal and illicit, saying that they would amount to a flagrant abuse of their fundamental rights.
He told the court that the bill, sponsored by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, seeks to empower the federal government to convert any property in the country, including private property, into isolation centers for patients with infectious diseases.
The applicant argued that the bill was drafted in a way that FG could, on the simple suspicion that a person is infected with an infectious disease, arrest and detain the person for as long as necessary, among others.
Cited as Defendants in the lawsuit FHC / ABJ / CS / 463/2020, are the Secretary of the National Assembly, the Secretary of the House of Representatives, the President of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, and the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu.
Meanwhile, before the ruling was given, the court removed the IGP’s name from the matter, noting that the lawsuit did not reveal any reasonable cause of action against him.
Melaye, in a supporting affidavit attached to the lawsuit, urged the court to issue an injunction to prevent the Defendants from continuing or continuing other discussions regarding the Bill.
He stated: “That I know in fact that section 3 (8) of the bill empowering the Director General of the National Center for Disease Control, himself or any officer under his command or a police officer at his direction Entering any premises or meeting of people in an area declared by the President as a restricted public health area, without a court order, is clearly a violation of my fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and the right to liberty of my person human.
In fact, I also know that these provisions conflict with my rights to a fair hearing and also violate the twin pillars of natural justice.
“In fact, I know that section 5 (3) of the bill, which empowers the NCDC DG, to compel any person suspected by him of having an infectious disease to undergo a medical examination or any evidence from the -General Director of the National Center for Disease Control, prescribes and allows the DG to take blood or other samples from the person forcibly for public health surveillance purposes, is violating or is likely to violate my fundamental rights to privacy and the right to respect for the dignity of my human person.
In fact, I also know that this section, like the other provisions of this bill, has nothing to do with whether there is a public health emergency or not. That said section is intended to be a permanent provision of the law, which can be exercised at any time at the discretion of the DG, NCDC, in contravention of my fundamental human rights.
“In fact, I know that section 8 of that bill, which requires healthcare personnel treating anyone to disclose to the NCDC DG, the patient’s medical details and records, is a serious violation of my fundamental rights to dignity of the human person and privacy.
“In fact, I also know that section 13 of that bill, which empowers the NCDC DG, to suspect that a person is infected with an infectious disease, or has recovered from an infectious disease, to arrest the person and detaining him for as long as he deems necessary without a court order or court order in any isolation facility of his choice violates my fundamental rights, liberty and the dignity of the human person.
“In fact, I know that section 15 of the bill, which empowers the Minister of Health, to declare any premises, whether public or private, as an isolation facility without payment of compensation, violates or is likely to violate my right to own property in Nigeria.
“That I also know in fact that sections 16, 17 and 19 of the bill, by which the NCDC Director General, can declare any building or meeting as overcrowding, and without any court order or court order, enter the premises use whatever force I deem necessary to disperse the group and close the building, constitute an infringement, or are likely to infringe my rights to freedom of association and privacy.
“In fact, I also know that section 30 of that bill, which makes vaccination, with no specific disease known, mandatory without my consent when I leave or arrive in Nigeria, is likely to violate my fundamental rights to privacy and dignity of the human person as provided in sections 34 and 37 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999, as amended.
“In fact, I know that section 47 of the bill, which empowers the NCDC DG, to direct mandatory vaccination in an outbreak or suspected outbreak is violating or likely to violate my fundamental rights to the dignity of the person human and privacy. “
He urged the court through his attorney, Nkem Okoro, to confirm the lawsuit and grant all remedies.
Among other things, he prayed for: “An amparo order restricting Defendants, be they, themselves, their agents, employees, servants, toilets, or whatever they are called, to continue with or continue further discussions regarding the sections 3 (8), 5 (3), 6,8,13,15,16,17,19,23,30 and 47 of the Infectious Diseases Control Act 2020, which stipulates violations and is likely to violate rights of the Applicant as provided in sections 33, 34, 35, 37, 38 and 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Articles 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12 and 14 of the African Charter Law of ratification and observance of human and peoples’ rights) Law Cap A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, Articles 2 (3), 7,8,9,12,17,21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1976, articles 3,5,8,9,10,12,13,17 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 “.
Although the first and second defendants did not file any proceedings in the matter, the third to fifth respondents, through their attorneys, Kayode Ajulo (for the speaker, Gbajabiamila), ML Shiru (for the AGF) and Kehinde Oluwole (for the IGP ), He prayed that the court would dismiss the claim they were maintaining was premature.
In their separate preliminary objections, the Defendants argued that the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to invoke the court’s jurisdiction over a law that is still in its infancy.
They argued that a bill that has yet to become law could not have violated any of the plaintiff’s constitutional rights, adding that a bill being passed could not be the subject of litigation.
Furthermore, they argued that based on the doctrine of separation of power, the judiciary cannot interfere in the legislative affairs of the National Assembly.
Therefore, the defendants urged the court to dismiss the lawsuit at the cost of being frivolous and wasting time, maintaining that the bill would still be subject to a public hearing where the applicant would have an opportunity to voice their concerns.
According to them, the applicant did not demonstrate how a bill that has not been enacted violates his fundamental rights.
The court upheld its preliminary objections and dismissed the lawsuit on Tuesday.