By Dirisu Yakubu
When President Muhammadu Buhari announced a two weeks lockdown of Lagos and Ogun states as well as the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, earlier in the week following the COVID-19 pandemic, some eminent Nigerians kicked against the move, citing the need to walk the path of the law in doing so.
Here are a few of the positions canvassed by some Nigerians prior to the signing of the Act a few days later.
Lockdown must be in accordance with the law- Senator Dino Melaye.
You will recall that I had a broadcast one week ago in support of the lockdown of Abuja and Lagos. This buttresses the fact that I support measures to contain the Coronavirus pandemic but it must be done in accordance with the law. Nigeria is practicing constitutional Democracy and it is an absurdity for the President to take over the affairs of any state of the federation without the express approval of the State House of Assembly.
In the Presidential broadcast today (Monday), the President did not invoke his power of Emergency as prescribed by Section 305 of the Constitution of Nigeria and even if invoked, it must be with the approval of the National Assembly.
The President acted outside his powers to restrict movement without approval of the National Assembly. I therefore advise Mr President to take appropriate constitutional steps and do the needful quickly as we need the lockdown. This is a very important decision but must be done in line with all democratic norms. God bless Nigeria as I pray for divine intervention from God Almighty. Only Him can rescue us.
I will challenge Buhari’s unconstitutional lockdown in court
By Inibehe Effiong
Constitutional lawyer and human rights activist
After a deep reflection on President Buhari’s decision to lock down ALL movements in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja by presidential fiat for fourteen (14) days, I have resolved to challenge this unconstitutional action in court.
No responsible, democratic and civilised country will throw its Constitution and laws into the dustbin in an effort to tackle a pandemic like COVID-19 the way President Buhari has done. Freedom of movement is a fundamental right guaranteed by Section 41 of the Constitution.
While it is conceded that this right is not absolute, Section 45 of the Constitution is clear to the effect that freedom of movement can only be taken away in the manner allowed by a law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. Buhari has not relied on any law.
If Buhari is convinced that extraordinary measures are needed to contain coronavirus, the proper action would have been for him to issue an instrument published in the official Gazette of the Government and make a proclamation of a state of emergency in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja.
By Section 305 (6) (b) of the Constitution, such proclamation shall cease to have effect if it is not approved by a resolution of the National Assembly within two days where the National Assembly is in session or within ten days where the National Assembly is not in session.
By Section 305 (2) of the Constitution, the details of such proclamation can include extraordinary measures like lockdown. Those who say that the rule of law is useless because of this pandemic are mistaken. There is no exception to the rule of law in a constitutional democracy.
Buhari could have asked the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives to convene the National Assembly to approve a state of emergency. He could have simply issued regulations pursuant to the Quarantine Act. But he opted for his usual dictatorial ways of doing things.
As a resident of Lagos State, I am directly affected by the illegal action of the President. I will seek redress in court either before or after the expiration of this unconstitutional lockdown since there is no limitation of time with respect to fundamental right actions.
President Buhari can either retrace his unconstitutional steps immediately and follow the due process of law or face my impending legal action. The choice is his.
All serious countries declared emergency, passed or invoked laws to tackle COVID-19.
Is Nigeria a banana republic?
A few days after, the President did the needful as he put pen to paper to sign the Quarantine Act and Barrister Effiong had this to say:
“In my six years as a lawyer, I have never faced public attack and insults over my views on a legal matter the way I was attacked and insulted for leading a strong campaign for President Buhari to follow the rule of law in tackling COVID-19.
“All over social media, people insulted me and my family just for doing what I believe is my civic duty and for upholding the rule of law as a legal practitioner. In the end, the President vindicated me by issuing regulations as advised pursuant to the Quarantine Act on COVID-19.
“I do not take this as a personal victory. It was never about me. It was about our constitutional democracy. Now that regulations have been issued to back the lockdown, etc, I congratulate all lovers of democracy who stood by what is right even if it was not popular to do so.
“I forgive those who attacked and insulted me. I forgive those who called me unprintable names. I forgive those who questioned my knowledge of the law. I hope they will be humble enough to admit their error. I also hope we’ve all learnt appropriate lessons.”