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Court refuses to Stop House of Reps From Passing NCDC Bill

by John Asama
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The Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday rejected a request to restrain the House of Representatives from continuing the consideration of the controversial Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020, widely referred to as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control Bill.

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, in a ruling  refused to grant the order because the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the third defendant in the suit, had yet to be served with the court documents.

She adjourned the case till June 1 for further hearing in the case which was instituted on May 5, 2020 by a former senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye.

Wednesday made the second time the court declined the request by the plaintiff to restrain the respondents from continuing the consideration of the bill.

Earlier on May 13, 2020, the judge refused an ex parte application by the plaintiff asking for an order directing parties to maintain status quo in the matter.

The judge had, instead of granting the restraining order, summoned the five respondents in the suit to appear in court on Wednesday to defend the bill from being stopped by an interim court order as requested by the plaintiff.

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

On Wednesday, Clerks of both the National Assembly and the House of Representatives and the AGF were absent from court and not represented by their lawyers.

Although Gbajabiamila who is the third respondent, was absent, he was represented by his lawyer, Mr. Kayode Ajulo, who told the court that his client had yet to be served with any processes or court order in respect of the suit.

The IGP, who is the fifth respondent in the suit, was absent but was represented by its lawyer, Mr. Kehinde Oluwole.

Speaking, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Mr. Nkem Okoro, noted that the respondents had failed to file any response against the earlier request for an order restraining the defendants from continuing with the bill.

He, therefore, urged the court to order parties to maintain status quo to protect the subject matter and prevent a situation of foisting a “fait accompli” on the court.

The judge declined to grant the plaintiff’s request on the grounds that the May 13, 2020 summons for the defendants to appear in court on Wednesday to show cause why they should not be restrained concerning the NCDC bill, was predicated on the service of all the respondents with the required court documents.

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“Since the condition precedent has not been met, I would rather hold that the matter proceeds to hearing,” the judge ruled.

She then ordered that the Speaker be served through his lawyer, Ajulo.

The judge adjourned till June 1 for hearing.

Melaye in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/463/2020, and filed on May 5, 2020, 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.

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