Osinbajo: Questioning Lockdown Order Unnecessary

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Yemi Osinbajo

*Says president’s declaration proactive, backed by law

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo Monday said questioning the legality of the presidential order restricting movements in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun States was unnecessary as the action taken was not only important but backed by extant Nigerian laws.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Sunday ordered a lockdown of the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun beginning from 11pm Monday to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country. The declaration had prompted debate over the constitutionality of the president’s action.

A statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Office of the Vice President, Laolu Akande, said Osinbajo spoke in Abuja while responding to questions at the Google Hangout programme organised by HACK COVID-19 Call Centre – a private sector initiative supporting Nigeria’s battle against the pandemic.

According to the Vice President, “regarding the legality of the shutdowns announced by the President yesterday, I think it is entirely legal. These steps are proactive, very relevant, important and backed by law.

“I am not so sure some of the people who have commented on the issue have come across the Quarantine Act. There is a Quarantine Act of 1926, it’s been published in all of the Laws of Nigeria, every edition of the Laws of Nigeria, it is there.”

Referring specifically to the part of the legislation that empowers the President to order movement restrictions in any part the country, Prof. Osinbajo said, “what the Act does is that it allows the President to designate any local area, any part of the country, as a place that may be infected or under the threat of a communicable disease, and he can then make regulations of any kind.

“For instance, he can say, people should not go out; no public gatherings etc. So, it is a regulation that gives the President powers and these powers come from the National Assembly because, of course, it is an Act of the National Assembly.”

The statement said Osinbajo later explained that by virtue of the constitutional rules, the 1926 Act was deemed to be an Act of the National Assembly.

“So, the President has extensive powers under the Quarantine Act of 1926. Also, Governors have extensive powers under the same Quarantine Act,” he said.

Osinbajo urged all interested individuals and groups to personally go through the legislation in order to understand the provisions therein, noting that “it is barely a one page legislation, so it is not particularly difficult to find the relevant provisions and it is not particularly difficult to read, very straightforward. So, the President has all the powers.”

Speaking further about the legal precedent of the President’s declaration, Osinbajo recalled the Influenza pandemic of 1918, also referred to as the Spannish Flu, which killed thousands in Nigeria and millions across the world.

The vice president said, “many of us are not familiar with the Influenza pandemic that killed several millions around the world in 1918. At that time regulations were made here, very similar to what we have today, although that was under the colonial authorities.

“They also banned public gatherings, banned gatherings in places of worship then. So, there is even good historical precedence for some of what we are doing today.”