Court rules on Melaye’s suit against NCDC bill June 30

THE Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday fixed June 30 for judgment on the legality of the controversial Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020, widely referred to as the National Centre for Disease Control Bill.

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu fixed the date for judgment after parties to the suit adopted the processes containing their written arguments on Monday.

The bill, which is sponsored by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and two other lawmakers, Pascal Obi and Tanko Sununu, sought to, among others, empower the Federal Government to convert any property in the country, including private property, to isolation centres.

 The bill also sought to empower the government to, upon mere suspicion that a person is infected with an infectious disease, arrest and detain the person for as long as necessary, among others.

A former senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, had on May 5, 2020, filed the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/463/2020, to challenge the legality of the bill.

 The plaintiff alleged that the controversial bill was a violation of his fundamental rights to the dignity of his person, personal liberty, right to private and family life, right to freedom of movement and right to own immoveable property in Nigeria.

 The respondents to the suit are the Clerk of the National Assembly, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu.

But the Clerks of the National Assembly and the House of Representatives were not represented at the Monday’s proceedings.

The plaintiff, through his lawyer, Nkem Okoro, had on May 20, 2020, sought an order of the court to restrain the respondents from carrying on with the consideration of the bill pending the determination of the suit.

But the judge in declining to grant the prayer said she preferred to hear the substantive suit instead of issuing an interlocutory order.

On Monday, Melaye’s lawyer, Mr Nkem Okoro, urged Justice Ojukwu to proceed to hear the suit and foreclose the filing of responses to the suit by the Clerks of the House of the National Assembly, who were not represented in court by their lawyers.

He said they had been given opportunities to file their defence but failed to do so.

He urged the court to grant the prayers contained in the suit.

However, the Speaker’s lawyer, Kayode Ajulo, that of the AGF, M.L. Shiru and the IGP’s, Kehinde Oluwole, urged the court to strike out the matter for lack of merit.

They argued in their notices of preliminary objection that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

They also argued that a bill, which had yet to be enacted as an Act of the National Assembly could not possibly infringe on the plaintiff’s right.

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