Stakeholders call for an effective legal instrument to prevent diseases

Stakeholders in the health sector have called for effective legal instruments in Nigeria to protect citizens from infectious diseases.

The stakeholders said this at a review meeting on the quarantine act (repeal and re-enactment) bill in Abuja, organised by the Lifeline Centre for Medical and Health Rights Advocacy, with support from Resolve to Save Lives.

They urged the Federal Government to strengthen surveillance at the country’s points of entry to prevent the spread of infectious diseases The Trumpet gathered.

According to Prof. Uwakwe Abugu, President, Lifeline Centre for Medical and Health Rights Advocacy, the point of entry will be strengthened bypassing the Quarantine Act repeal and re-enactment Bill 2022 into law.

Abugu said that although Nigeria has the Quarantine Act, of 1926, it has not been very effective in preventing the spread of infectious diseases in the country.

“Anybody coming into Nigeria or any plane or ship coming or going out of Nigeria it is the port health services that is in charge of ensuring that no infectious disease is transmitted, imported or exported into Nigeria.

“This important port health service is only established by the port health regulation which is the subsidiary regulation made under the quarantine act.

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“With the growth of pandemic, you know, we have had Ebola before, we are now having COVID-19 and we are expecting more pandemic.

“We are not praying for it but this is the reality of the day and so we really need to strengthen this aspect of our healthcare system at the point of entry,” he said.

Abugu said that the bill, when signed into law would create a regulatory agency to help Nigeria meet international standards as stipulated by the international health regulations.

He said part of the provisions entailed that every country should take steps to strengthen its point of entry healthcare services and the bill would help in achieving that.

Dr Emmanuel Agogo, Nigeria Country Representative, Resolve to Save Lives, an NGO, said that bill was a necessity in Nigeria.

He said that this was because when the country did the joint external evaluation on international health regulation in 2017, the point of entry was one of the areas assessed.

“The assessment showed for instance that there was no designated point of entry which was expected to be done.

“Processes and systems were not in place for effective response at the point of entry in line with the International Health Regulations (IHR) which is a global obligation that the country is part of.

“So this bill and the work with the ministry of health with the legislations, hopefully, will breach that gap, and the quarantine law which is quite obsolete and NCDC law will be brought to modern-day,” he said.

Agogo said that this would also help to ensure that the country’s obligation around an effective point of entry was corrected as well.

He said that this would prevent Nigeria’s borders whether air or land by making sure that they would be more robustly protected to identify infectious diseases that can come through the borders.

Ms Amira Abubakar, Assistant legal adviser, Nigeria Centre For Diseases Control (NCDC), said that the bill was apt as it would repeal the first quarantine act which was stale.

“A new quarantine bill if passed into law will cover all the necessary loopholes,” she said.

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