The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)and other stakeholders have called on the presidency and the National Assembly to expedite action on health bills.
The Legal Adviser, NCDC, Safiya Musa, made the call in Abuja at the Quarterly meeting of the Technical Working Group (TWG) focusing on the implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR) in Nigeria .
The meeting was organised in collaboration with an NGO, ‘Resolve to Save Lives’, as part of effort to help Nigeria meet up with the IHRs requirements.
The TWG is to serve as a collective think tank, dedicated to supervising and evaluating the implementation of the 2005 International Health Regulations(IHR) within Nigeria.
It deliberates on Nigeria’s progress in implementing the IHR and offers insights into legal developments pertinent to public health security.
According to Musa,the call to fast track the passage and assent to health bills is imperative in order to further strengthen Nigeria’s healthcare sector for effective delivery.
She listed the legal instruments on public health security to include the NCDC Act Amendment Bill,the Port Health Services Bill and the Quarantine Bill, all before the National Assembly.
Musa said that the Public Health Emergency Bill has however, been passed and was presently awaiting presidential assent.
She added, “The International Health Regulations is an instrument of international law, of which Nigeria is a signatory to . It was adopted by WHO in 2005 and came into force in 2007.
” This is an international effort collaboration on emerging and re-emerging diseases that have the tendency to cross borders; as you are aware, disease pathogens are not restricted by borders or boundaries.
“The next outbreak is just a plane ride or a train ride away. The next person coming to your town on a bus might be coming with the next deadly plague.
“So, this is an international effort by WHO which defines and creates obligations on how countries respond to health emergencies.
“NCDC recently conducted a mapping of all Federal laws to check its compliance with the IHRs , the first of its kind on public health security laws across sectors and we found a lot of gaps. ”
Musa said that some of the laws were older and moribund dating as far back as 1926 in some sectors, while there were no laws addressing IHR issues at all.
She said that NCDC as one of the focal agencies on IHRs was working on reforming the moribund laws, bringing on new laws on the table to respond to public health outbreaks.
She explained that legal instruments were very important as they inform public health outcomes.
“Look at when the recent COVID 19 came ,we had to come up with emergency regulations to be able to respond, so having these laws on ground is actually very key to preparedness and response to outbreaks globally, not just in Nigeria.
“The National Assembly has been a partner in progress in reforming our public health security laws and we are very grateful for that.
“But, we also want to call upon them to further give us additional support by fast tracking all the legal instruments we have before them for presidential assent going forward,”she said
Musa said that Nigeria, having signed onto the IHRs having laws to for preparedness of diseases was a key mandate.
She, therefore , said that the essence of the working group of experts drawn across sectors was to monitor and evaluate Nigeria’s work on health security laws.(NAN