COVID-19: The constitutionality of President M. Buhari’s lockdown of 3 major cities in Nigeria.
During his latest state of the nation address on March 29, 2019, President Muhammed Buhari in a bid to curtail the spread of the coronavirus announced that there will be fourteen days (14) lockdown in Lagos State, Ogun State and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
After the President’s address, arguments for and against the president’s directives have arisen in the various social media platforms. While a group is supportive of the directive of the president in the midst of the imminent danger posed by the virus, the other side are of the view that in as much as the president’s directive is well thought out, legally, it is not in order.
An overview of the laws of the land to determine the constitutionality or otherwise of the presidential directive is necessary for an enlightened perspective.
The lockdown directive and the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (as amended).
Constitutionally, the President has inherent powers to restrict movement in any part of the Country but this is clearly within his powers to declare a state of emergency. Section 305 of the Constitution provides for the imposition of a state of emergency in the country or any part of it. The section empowers the president to issue the declaration by way of the official gazette.
It added, however, that a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly must ratify the executive proclamation within two days if the legislators are in session, or 10 days if they are not. Section 305 (3)(d) specifically empowers the president to declare a state of emergency when there is a clear and present danger of an actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the Federation or any part thereof requiring extraordinary measures to avert such danger.
The lockdown directive and the Quarantine Act LFN 2004
The Quarantine Act provides that the President may, by notice, declare any place whether within or without Nigeria to be an infected local area, and thereupon such place shall be an infected local area within the meaning of this Act in Section 3 of the Act.
Section 4 of the Act provides that the President may make regulations for all or any of the following purposes- (a) prescribing the steps to be taken within Nigeria upon any place, whether within or without Nigeria, being declared to be an infected local area;
(b) prescribing the introduction of any dangerous infectious disease into Nigeria or any part thereof from any place without Nigeria, whether such place is an infected local area or not;
(c) preventing the spread of any dangerous infectious disease from any place within Nigeria, whether an infected local area or not, to any other place within Nigeria;
(d) preventing the transmission of any dangerous infectious disease from Nigeria or from any place within Nigeria, whether an infected local area or not, to any place without Nigeria;
(e) prescribing the powers and duties of such officers as may be charged with carrying out such regulations;
(f) fixing the fees and charges to be paid for any matter or thing to be done under such regulations, and prescribing the persons by whom such fees and charges shall be paid, and the persons by whom the expenses of carrying out any such regulations shall be borne, and the persons from whom any such expenses incurred by the Government may be recovered;
(g) generally for carrying out the purposes and provisions of this Act
The above provisions of the Quarantine Act empower the President to take measures to help control the spread of any infectious disease. The coronavirus is one that falls within the contemplation of the law.
The COVID-19 Regulation and the Restriction of Movement.
A few days after the Presidential directivs for the cessation of movement in Lagos State, Abuja, and Ogun State, the President in exercising his powers under sSections 2, 3 and 4 of the Quarantine Act LFN 2004 issued the COVID-19 Regulations which finally put paid to the argument on the propriety or otherwise of the initial restriction of movement in some of the states of the Federation for the initial period of fourteen (14) days.
Specifically, Rule 1 of the Regulation stipulated that the President based on advice from the Minister of Health and the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) restricts movement in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT for the initial period of 14 days.
The opinions in the articles are for general information purposes only and do not form a legal relationship or be taken as legal advice. To explore legal advice, please consult your solicitor or feel free to get in touch with us directly.