By Abujah Racheal
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Sen. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, says he is hopeful that President Muhammadu Buhari will assent to the Public Health Emergency Bill before the end of his administration.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) the 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.
Oloriegbe, made this known on Tuesday in Abuja during a roundtable with legislators, organised by the Nigeria Health Watch, in partnership with the Global Health Advocacy Incubator with theme: “Strengthening Health Security in Nigeria Through Public Health Legislation”.
Oloriegbe explained that the bill, which was passed by the Senate in January 2022, would be harmonised with the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill by the House of Representatives.
”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 be jointly presented.
”We hope to present the report by next week and, hopefully, the President should sign it.
”If it is not assented to, we have to push on in the 10th Assembly and we must start early.”
He said as of the COVID-19 het Nigeria, it was the Quarantine Act that was in place.
”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.
”The 9th National Assembly has significantly achieved much in strengthening Nigeria’s health security.
“Through our work at the National Assembly, we have contributed to improving health security by increasing visibility and financing allocation for health security in Nigeria,” he said.
He said that strengthening the country’s health security would require commitment of the 36 States Governors and the FCT.
Oloriegbe urged the media to make use of their reportage to lobby the 10th National Assembly for a Chairman, Senate Committee on Health that is willing to continue where the 9th Assembly stopped.
Also speaking, the Chairman, House Committee on Health Services, Rep. Tanko Sununu said that the National Assembly played a critical role in combating infectious disease outbreaks in the country.
Sununu said that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that disease outbreaks can have devastating consequences for the entire country.
He said that COVID-19 has demonstrated what previous outbreaks and epidemics had already shown: National pandemic preparedness and response depend on strong local and national capacities.
He said that effective response is dependent on dynamic knowledge of what to respond to, where, at what scale, and with what tools, and it is predicated on long-term investments in prevention and preparedness.
He said that the 9th National Assembly has significantly achieved much in strengthening the country’s health security.
He urged the Media to collaborate with the health committees at the National Assembly to foster ways to enhance the implementation of the new public health bills in the country.
Earlier, Dr Emmanuel Alhassan, Global Health Advocacy Incubator, said that the 9th assembly has engaged very actively with various stakeholders to improve the policy and legislative landscape in the country.
He said that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of robust and sustained funding for public health emergencies.
He added that the pandemic has also emphasised the need for strong and effective public health legislation that can support such funding.
Alhassan said that through advocacy efforts, the country has achieved notable successes in securing increased funding for Epidemics Preparedness and Response, as well as improvements in the country’s epidemic preparedness and response capabilities.
Mrs Vivianne Ihekweazu, Managing Director of Nigeria Health Watch, said that the roundtable provided a unique opportunity for experts to share their views on these bills.
Ihekweazu said that to address this pressing need, Nigerian legislative leaders have collaborated with relevant stakeholders and partners to propose a series of new public health bills aimed at enhancing the country’s response to public health emergencies.
“These bills include the Public Health Emergency Bill, which seeks to provide a comprehensive legal framework for managing public health emergencies.
“The Amendment of the National Health Act, which seeks to address gaps in the existing legislation that hinder effective response to public health emergencies.
“In addition, the Port Health Authority Bill is aimed at establishing and strengthening the Port Health Authority, responsible for health security at the country’s borders,” she explained.
She said that these bills have significant implications for public health in the country, and as such, it is critical that they are thoroughly examined and discussed by key stakeholders in the health sector.
NAN reports that the bill also seeks the development of a comprehensive plan to provide for a co-ordinated and appropriate response in the event of public health emergency.
It will also enhance the early detection of a health emergency and allow the immediate investigation of such emergency by gaining access to individual’s health information under specified circumstances.
The act also seeks to grant federal and state officials the authority to use an appropriate property as necessary for the case, treatment, vaccination and housing of patients and to destroy contaminated facilities or materials. (NAN) www.nannews.ng
Edited by Sadiya Hamza