Despite the clarification by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), that President Muhammadu Buhari has the power to lock down states, a human rights lawyer, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), has insisted that it was wrong for the President to have invoked the Quarantine Act to lock down the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states.
He said the president should have declared a state of emergency instead of a lockdown.
Adegboruwa had on Monday described the order of the president restricting movements as “illegal.”
Defending the action of the president, Malami had said the Quarantine Act empowered the president to take such measures since COVID-19 had been declared an infectious disease.
Also, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the Quarantine Act gives the president the power to “make regulations of any kind.”
Responding to the vice president and the AGF, Adegboruwa said: “The Quarantine Act has no provision for the restriction of the movement of any citizen.”
According to him, “The act is meant for the isolation, care and treatment of victims of infectious diseases simpliciter, for the purpose of isolating them away from interacting with other members of the public, generally and that it should not be twisted to restrain the uninfected.”
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) also said for the president to be entitled to make any regulation under sections 4 and 8 of the Quarantine Act, he should have published in a national newspaper “stating the particular place affected as an infected local area and such must be a well-defined area, such as a local government, a town or a community, and not just a blanket tag.”
“This has not been done. How then do we lockdown citizens and detain them forcefully for two weeks, in one single spot, without any charge or offence alleged against them?
“The Quarantine Act does not contain any provision expressly authorising the restriction of movement of citizens and such power must not and cannot be assumed by the president,” he explained.
Adegboruwa said Buhari should have explored the option of declaring a state of emergency as enshrined in section 305 (3) (d) of the constitution instead of a lockdown, which violates the constitutional rights of citizens.
“Section 305 (3) (d) of the Constitution permits the president to declare a state of emergency in any part of Nigeria through an instrument published in the official gazette when there is an occurrence or imminent danger, or the occurrence of any disaster or natural calamity, affecting the community or a section of the community.
“The COVID-19 pandemic qualifies an imminent danger, a disaster, and a natural calamity. The president should have explored this window for his declaration,” he pointed out.
He added that such a declaration would cease to have effect if it is not approved by the National Assembly through a resolution after two days of being in session or after 10 days of being out of session.