By Chido Nwakanma
Portions of a new Infectious Diseases Act authorising the Director General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control to compel vaccinations is raising significant concern in the light of underground allegations of a cynical plot. The provision appears in Section 48, subsection 1 of the new draft Infectious Diseases Act discussion of which ran into a storm at the House of Representatives on Thursday 29 April 2020.
Section 48 (1) speaks of “Power to order certain persons to undergo vaccination or other prophylaxis”. It states: “In an outbreak or a suspected outbreak of any infectious disease in any area in Nigeria, the Director General may by order direct any person or class of persons not protected or vaccinated against the disease to undergo vaccination or other prophylaxis within such period as may be specified in the order”.
Subsection 2 of Section 48 adds that “the Director may by order direct any person or class of persons not protected or vaccinated against that infectious disease to undergo vaccination or other prophylaxis within such period as may be specified in the order”. The DG would do so “where it appears to the Director that — (a) an outbreak of an infectious disease in any area in Nigeria is imminent, and (b) it is necessary or expedient to do so for the securing of public safety”.
The Bill gives wide latitude to the Director General to determine the type of vaccination and how. He “may specify the person by whom and the manner in which the vaccination or other prophylaxis is to be carried out.”
Some groups allege that the provision is a ruse for the introduction of mandatory mass vaccination. They claim that it would lead to the implantation of chips in Nigerian citizens as part of a “globalist agenda”.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates receives so much hate from a specific segment of Nigerians for his preachment on the necessity of vaccines. Others dismiss the conspiracy slant with notions of the Bill creating a new draconian law in the statute books for nefarious application.
Beyond the conspiracy theories, however, the draft Infectious Diseases Act contains provisions that endanger the rights of citizens to movement, association, speech and property. It gives absolute powers beyond the courts to officials of the NCDC, the police and the minister of health.
Section 24 empowers “every enforcement officer, police officer or any authorised officer” to arrest any person suffering from an infectious disease on any street, public place, shop or public transportation and take the person to a hospital. One implication is that if you cough in a bus, a police officer could seize and take you to a hospital on suspicion of infection with an infectious disease!
The Act empowers the DG of NCDC to shut any house or premises by declaring it an isolation area. The DG can a) prohibit any person or class of persons from entering or leaving the isolation area and prevent and restrict the movement of persons or goods within the place. He can also compel people to submit to medical examinations or treatment as he deems fit.
Unlike the claim by the conspiracy theorists, no provision of the Bill states that lack of vaccination would lead to denial of access to services and facilities such as to airports, travel, or shopping. There is no such clause.
A critical question, though, remains: are vaccinations the only way of treating infectious diseases? There are at least five causes of infectious diseases, namely bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. The Bill adopts a singular treatment approach. Treatments also vary. It is curious that the proposed bill focuses only on one treatment procedure. Why and how is that?
Significantly, Section 20 denies citizens the right to free association. It prohibits or restricts “meetings, gatherings and public entertainments” where it appears to the DG that such “is likely to increase the spread of any infectious disease”. The ban would be for an initial 14 days. An aggrieved person has recourse only to the Minister of Health and not to the courts.
The Act says that to investigate any suspected outbreak of infectious disease the DG “may at any time without (a) warrant and with such force as may be necessary — (i) enter, inspect and search any premises; or (ii) stop, board, inspect and search any conveyance, in which the outbreak or suspected outbreak has taken place.” Without warrant!
Section 55 (e) steps into access and right to hold information, a veiled threat against the mass media. It requires any person (i) to furnish any information within his knowledge; or (ii) to produce any book, document or other records which may be in his custody or possession for inspection by the Director General or Health Officer.
The legal community points out that the Bill usurps the rights of the courts and overrides the 1999 Nigerian constitution in several areas.
Segments of the Christian community have cried out about the prospect of forced vaccination as provided in the draft legislation. In a joint press statement on Monday 27 April, the Living Science Foundation Ile-Ife and the Christian Initiative for Nation Building, Osogbo declared that “Mandatory mass vaccination not acceptable as a requirement for post-coronavirus normalcy in Nigeria.”
Joshua Olufemi Ojo, professor of health physics and environment at the Obafemi Awolowo University and Dr Samuel Adeniyi Oginni, a Fellow of the World Health Organisation Field Epidemiology Training Scheme signed the statement. They brought to the fore charges that hidden “globalist interests” are pushing the move for mass vaccination in the draft bill.
They argued against “mandatory mass vaccination”. Prof Ojo and Dr Oginni stated, “Since vaccines are not drugs to be administered to people who are sick and need some relief, compelling those who may not require a vaccine to receive one (especially in light of the associated health risks) is most unconscionable”.
Ojo and Oginni push the argument against mass vaccination by repeating claims that it would lead to forced digital identity and the application of cybernetics. They stated: “Tagged ID2020, the initiative was described as a ‘program to leverage immunization as an opportunity to establish digital identity’. This technology, in the form of quantum dot-based nanoparticles, is the dream product in cybernetics, a scientific field which seeks to meld man and machine together into a novel creature – a cybernetic organism, or simply cyborg. There are considerable adverse health and social implications (including mass mind control), associated with this product and it has rightly provoked outrage across the nations of the world”.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control is the national public health institute mandated to “lead the preparedness, detection and response to infectious disease outbreaks and public health emergencies. President Muhammadu Buhari signed its establishment Act on 12 November 2018. There is thus a recent law behind the NCDC.
NCDC says its mission for 2017-2021 is “To protect the health of Nigerians through evidence-based prevention, integrated disease surveillance and response activities, using a one health approach, guided by research and led by a skilled workforce”.
The draft Infectious Diseases Act replicates a similar law in Singapore with analysts saying it is egregious plagiarism. Speaker of the House of Representatives Mr Femi Gbajabiamila is the prime mover. The Bill passed two readings before objectors stopped it.
NCDC Director General Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu spoke on Friday 30 April 2020 urging that consideration of the Bill should tarry until Nigeria has conquered the current pandemic. “I am not in favour of drafting a bill in the middle of a crisis”, Ihekweazu stated. “I think we need to get over the crisis and use the momentum to engage with all stakeholders to come up with a bill that will serve this country.”
Meanwhile, an online campaign is collecting signatures of persons against the forced vaccination in the Bill. When the House reconvenes, the draft Infectious Diseases Bill would have become a hot cocktail of contending issues, interests and forces.