The Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases has held a public hearing on the Bill to back the establishment of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for the control of diseases in the country.
The NCDC was established in 2011 as a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Health with the mandate to coordinate public health response to communicable diseases of public health significance, but it had never been backed with an Act of the Parliament.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, represented by the deputy Senate leader, Senator Balla Ibn Na’allah (APC, Kebi South), declared the public hearing open and said the Bill will formally and legally establish the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control when signed into law.
LEADERSHIP reports that the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control has been operating administratively for several years with the required personnel in place and receives a fair share of annual budget as appropriated by the National Assembly.
‘’It is therefore important that this agency gets legislative backing to give it a firm policy directive for consistency and adherence to international best practices and also for effective regulatory framework to enforce minimum standard practices and funding from donors.
‘’With appropriate legislation in place, it will also make for stability of interventions and for a legislative protection of government medium and long term planning,” the Senator said.
According to him, over the past two decades, the re-emergence of infectious diseases as a major public health concern and a growing awareness of the complexity of health regulation at the local, state, national and global levels speak volumes of the need to take disease control seriously.
‘’In 2017, Nigeria had a number of outbreak of diseases such as meningitis, yellow fever, monkey pox and Lassa fever.
This centre will strengthen health information systems to support prevention and control measures of communicable and non-communicable diseases.
‘’The centre will also help to prevent, detect, monitor and control diseases of national and international public health concern, including emerging and re-emerging diseases. This will ensure that we are not taken unawares like it happened during the unfortunate spread of Ebola virus in 2014 that caused a national panic and left some Nigerians victims,” Saraki said.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Theodore Orji while the chairman of the committee is Sen. Mao Ohuabunwa
On his part, the minister of health, Professor Isaac Adewole, urged the Senate fast-track the process for enacting the legal framework that will give teeth to the NCDC.
In his submission, Prof. Nasidi Abdulsalami, acting executive director, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), suggested that the bill should emphasise prevention over control.
“We should also emphasise having alternative sources of funding of the organisation. It is very crucial for us to establish a special intervention fund that will empower the agency to respond and reduce our health emergency time as we showcased during the Ebola outbreak.
“We want an NCDC that will be independent, autonomous to some extent,” he said.