Microsoft cofounder and billionaire American philanthropist Bill Gates denied offering Nigerian lawmakers a $10 million bribe to pass an infectious disease bill, Nigeria’s Premium Times reported on Monday.
The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Nigeria’s opposition party, citing a “human intelligence report,” alleged that Gates offered Nigerian lawmakers $10 million for the “speedy passage” of the bill, which aims to curb the spread of infectious diseases in the country.
A Nigerian House of Representatives committee investigating the alleged bribery listened to a statement from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation denying the allegations on Monday.
“The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has recently been made aware of an allegation circulating in certain elements of the Nigerian media that the Foundation was involved in a payment purportedly made to the Nigeria House of Representatives. Any such allegations are entirely false and without merit,” the Gates Foundation’s Nigeria representative, Paulin Basinga, said.
“To be clear, the Foundation has not offered any financial incentives to any member of Nigeria’s legislative branch for the passage of legislation nor has it offered any grants to organizations in Nigeria in connection with the same,” Basinga added.
The proposed legislation has caused controversy in Nigeria, as citizens fear the bill allows Nigerian authorities excessive power to enforce measures meant to curb the spread of infectious diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and dengue fever. The bill also calls for “compulsory vaccination.”
On May 11, the Premium Times reported on the bill’s most controversial sections:
Sections 46 and 47 of the Bill provide for compulsory vaccination of children and adults with some specified vaccines. Section 15 of the Bill empowers the DG [Director General of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control] to issue a notice to take over a citizen’s property and declare it an isolation center without the consent and permission of the owner. Section 24 empowers an Enforcement Officer to get an order from a Court [magistrate] to destroy a building where infectious disease occurred.
In 2018, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation agreed to pay off Nigeria’s $76 million polio debt, which the country had acquired to combat its national polio epidemic. The Foundation approved the debt write-off after Nigeria met certain conditions, including the guarantee of “more than 80 percent vaccination coverage in at least one round [of government-mandated vaccination] each year in very high-risk areas” for polio.