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IT IS ILLEGAL TO IMPOSE CURFEW UPON THE PEOPLE WITHOUT A LAW.

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IT IS ILLEGAL TO IMPOSE CURFEW UPON THE PEOPLE WITHOUT A LAW.

The Quarantine Act is no authority for the restriction of movement of people. Indeed, there is no provision in that Act that empowers the President or Governor of a State, to impose curfew on people or to restrict their movement.

First, public health legislations are targeted at the victims of infectious diseases and to protect those who have not been infected. A law made to protect me cannot at the same time be implemented to restrain me.

Second, the liberty of any citizen cannot be subject of indirect interpretation of legislations. Being a constitutional right inuring to the citizen as a fundamental right, the right to freedom of movement cannot be circumscribed under the Quarantine Act. For a law to satisfy the derogatory provisions of section 45(1) of the Constitution, it must specifically state the restriction of movement and give reasons for it and be passed by the parliament.

Third, there is nowhere under the Quarantine Act that the movement of citizens who are not infected with any infectious disease can be restricted. It is a law meant solely for the isolation of those infected with a disease capable of being transmitted, not to restrain those who have not been infected.

Fourth, the Quarantine Act, is a piece of colonial legislation made by the British colonialists in 1926, in trying to protect themselves from the natives that they suspected to harbour infectious diseases. Indeed, the Act targets mostly ships, with no provision to cover movement by air, by train or by motor vehicle. It is an archaic piece of legislation that has no place in our modern day independent Nigeria, even though it is erroneously preserved under section 315 of the Constitution. The National Assembly should amend that legislation to be in tune with our present circumstances.

Fifth, no governor in Nigeria is empowered by mere executive proclamation, to impose curfew on the people, to restrict their movement or to put them under compulsory quarantine, with no evidence of infection of any disease. What the governors should do is to work with the parliament in their States and come up with laws that will address the emergency situation that we have at hand, not through executive fiat.

Though I commend the federal and State governments for their proactive measures to combat the COVID 19 menace, this cannot be the basis for the restriction of movements or imposing total lockdown by executive proclamations.

It took the governments of the South-West States less then one month to come up with laws for the Amotekun security outfits. Parliamentarians can hold online meetings through video conferencing and come up with an emergency legislation to tackle COVID 19, instead of rushing to allocate luxury cars in the time of national emergency.

Nigeria will surely overcome this pandemic, through God and our collective legal actions.

Ebun-olu Adegboruwa, SAN
Lekki, Lagos.
29/03/2020.

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