Lagos Lawyer Faults National Health Bill 2012

Mr Sonnie Ekwowusi

Mr Sonnie Ekwowusi

Mr. Ekwowusi is faulting sections 2, 13, 17(1), 20, 21 (1) (2), 31(5), 32, 43(c)(d)(e)(f), 46(3), 50, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57 and 58 of the  National Health Bill 2012. He regrets that in a country where uncountable Nigerians are dying owing to inaccessibility to basic primary health, some members of the National Assembly are sponsoring a Bill that could encourage trafficking in human eggs, embryos, embryonic stem cell research, “therapeutic” and “reproductive” cloning.

 

A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Sonnie Ekwowusi has described the New National Health Bill 2012, which had already gone through the second reading in the Senate, as self-serving and incompatible with the cherished human values as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution and many African and International human rights instruments.

It will be recalled that in 2011 the two Houses of the National Assembly hurriedly passed the 2008 National Health Bill into law, but unfortunately, considering the mounting opposition against the Bill, President Good luck Jonathan refused to assent to it but instead sent it back to the National Assembly. The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), the Health Workers Association of Nigeria and other stakeholders opposed the Bill on ground that it failed to protect their interests. In the same vein, many NGOs, Churches, Mosques and members of civil society unanimously denounced the Bill as incapable of solving the urgent primary health care needs of the country. Very painfully, the Bill endorses trafficking in human tissues and human embryos. Specifically section 51(1)(2)(3)(4) of the Bill empowers the Health Minister, through his written permission, (with or without the non binding recommendation of National Ethics Research Committee), to grant a license to any person or group of persons to import or export Nigerian human zygotes or embryos to foreign countries for whatever purposes including cloning (therapeutic or otherwise).

Mr. Ekwowusi cannot understand why the same offensive section 51 (1)(2)(3)(4) has been replicated verbatim in the new National Health Bill 2012 irrespective of the fact that it was on that ground that the public rejected the 2008 National Health Bill culminating in President Jonathan withholding his assent to it.

Mr. Ekwowusi is also faulting sections 2, 13, 17(1), 20, 21 (1) (2), 31(5), 32, 43(c)(d)(e)(f), 46(3), 50, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57 and 58 of the  National Health Bill 2012.

He regrets that in a country like Nigeria where uncountable Nigerians are dying owing to inaccessibility to basic primary health, some members of the National Assembly are sponsoring a Bill that could encourage trafficking in human eggs, embryos, embryonic stem cell research, “therapeutic” and “reproductive” cloning.

The lawyer said that trafficking in human eggs, embryos and embryonic stem cell research has become a multibillion dollar business worldwide. Therefore if Nigeria goes ahead and legalizes it, it will be very difficult to control or regulate considering our ineffective police system, judicial checks and regulatory policies.

On human cloning, Mr Ekwowusi said that despite the trumpeting about human cloning over these years, no University laboratory or centre of research has been authorized to carry out a prolonged work on human cloning not only because of the danger involved or its moral implications or the scientific polemics involved but because of the enormous of money which such white elephant experimentation would guzzle. For example, to stop the prolongation of such absurd efforts at human replication, the European Union had at one time intervened to stop a seven-day cloned human embryo. Generally the America is against human cloning.

Mr. Ekwowusi is greatly alarmed that the new National Health Bill gives the Minister of Health unchecked power to permit any hospital in Nigeria to harvest the organ of a living Nigerian. Mr. Ekwowusi argues that such power is subject to great abuse. Besides, the new Bill fails to stipulate the ethical considerations guiding organ harvesting.

Consequently, Mr. Ekwowusi is calling for a general debate on the 2012 National Health Bill.

According to the lawyer, in a presidential democracy such as ours, a National Health Bill which ought to cater for the general health needs of all Nigerians ought to be brought to the public domain for discussion by various democratic stake holders, and should not be smuggled in as law through the back door. Mr. Ekwowusi said that he was shocked that the new National Health Bill had already gone through the second reading in the Senate without the participation of the critical stakeholders in Nigeria.

 

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