COVID-19: ‘Why Fed Govt must invoke ‘Quarantine Act’, by Falana

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By Adebisi Onanuga

 

Lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has requested the federal government to invoke the Quarantine Act which provides for and regulates the imposition of quarantine and in accordance with its powers under Section 305 of the Constitution of Nigeria.

He said that federal and state governments will have difficulties enforcing regulations they put in place to combat the pandemic (COVID-19 without necessary legal backing.

Falana made this declaration in a statement issued in Lagos on Thursday in reaction to decision of the government to deal with those found disobeying regulations announced to combat COVID-19 titled “Regulations To Combat COVID-19 Cannot be enforced Without Legal Backing”.

“Having confirmed that the Presidency is on lockdown, we are compelled to call on State Governors to apply the Quarantine Act which provides for and regulate the imposition of quarantine and to make other provisions for preventing the introduction into and spread in Nigeria and the transmission from Nigeria of dangerous infectious diseases.

“In particular, state governors are enjoined to invoke section 8 of the Act which empowers them to make such declarations and issue necessary regulations to combat any infectious disease like the COVID-19.

“Once the declarations are made police officers will be in a position to enforce the provision of section 5 of the Act which states that any person who contravenes the regulations made pursuant to the law shall be liable to a fine of N200 or imprisonment for a term of 6 months or to both.

“Furthermore, the attention of members of the public should be drawn to the stringent penalties prescribed by the Criminal Code and Penal Code for offences endangering life or health including reckless or negligent acts causing harm to people”, he stated.

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The senior lawyer recalled that the federal government had threatened to deal with religious and political leaders who have been flouting the measures put in place to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed, ” For those who would continue to willfully flout the directives aimed at checking the spread of this disease, the long arm of the law will soon catch them”.

He, however, noted that the minister did not refer to any law or regulation that has been violated by such leaders to support the decision of the government.

He argued that under the current democratic dispensation, no authority has the power to sanction any person for an offence that is not known to law and cited the case of Faith Okafor Vs. Lagos State Government to support his position.

He also noted that in the suit number (2014) WRN/CA/L/1106, the Court of Appeal held that the appellant could not be arrested or prosecuted for disobeying or flouting the directive or order of the Governor of Lagos State on restriction of movement for monthly sanitation exercise as he could only be arrested and prosecuted for an offence that is prescribed in a written law.

Falana regretted that his request to President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday to proclaim a state of emergency throughout the federation pursuant to Section 305 of the Constitution of Nigeria was ignored without any explanation.

He reasoned that this may be due to the fact that the government failed to realize that the country is no longer under the type of government when Nigerians were sanctioned for flouting regulations which were based on the whims and caprices of military dictators.

He, however, remarked that while no political or religious leader should be allowed to risk the lives of the Nigerian people by disregarding measures that have been announced by the authorities, the federal government has itself to blame for failing to proclaim a state of emergency to deal with the ravaging COVID-19.

“It is common knowledge that leaders of many countries have since invoked the provisions of relevant statutes to declare a state of emergency before imposing restriction on the locomotion of people and lockdown of towns”, he noted.