Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a human rights lawyer, says President Muhammadu Buhari should have declared a state of emergency instead of a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.
The president had ordered the lockdown of the federal capital territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states as a measure to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Adegboruwa on Monday described the order of the president restricting movements as “illegal”.
Defending the action of the president, Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF,) said the Quarantine Act empowers the president to take such measures since COVID-19 has been declared an infectious disease.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo also said the Quarantine Act gives the president 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.”
He said 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 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?” he said.
“The Quarantine Act does not contain any provision expressly authorizing the restriction of movement of citizens and such power must not and cannot be assumed by the President.
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,” he said.
“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 added that such a declaration will 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 being out of session.