Lukman Olabiyi, Lagos
Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and human rights activist Femi Falana has made an appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to issue a proclamation of a state of emergency over the rising spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country.
Falana expressed concern that directives issued by both federal and state governments to contain the spread of COVID-19 are being ignored because it has no legal backing.
The lawyer, who made the call in a press statement he issued in Lagos, also called for the decongestion of all detention facilities around the country.
The statement reads:
“Lasst week, the Federal Government and a few state governments belatedly responded to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Since then the authorities have advised Nigerians to comply with certain measures to contain the dreaded disease.
“But as the said measures are not backed by any law they have been ignored by some highly placed Nigerians including political and religious leaders.
“Millions of other people have also disregarded them out of sheer ignorance. In order to stem the dangerous trend, the Federal Government should put necessary legal measures and mechanisms in place without any further delay.
“In particular, the attention of the Nigerian people ought to be drawn to section 45 of the Constitution which provides that the fundamental rights of citizens to personal liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and association etc may be infringed upon or restricted in the interest of public health and public safety.
“Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari should, as a matter of urgency, issue a proclamation of a state of emergency in the entire Federation pursuant to section 305 (1) of the Constitution. Once the proclamation is issued by the President and published it is required to be approved by a resolution supported by a two-thirds majority of each house of the national assembly.
“Once the measures are set out in the said proclamation they will have the force of law capable of being enforced by the police and other security agencies.
“If President Buhari does not declare a state of emergency, state governors are advised to issue Executive Orders to address the health challenge.
“However, it is pertinent to point out that majority of the inmates in the nation’s highly congested correctional centres are not in a position to observe the social distancing policy recommended for the Nigerian people by the Federal Government.
“In the circumstances, the Federal Government should embark on the much-delayed decongestion of all detention facilities in the country.
“All inmates that are awaiting trial in all correctional centres, police stations and other detention facilities should be granted bail while convicts who are suffering from diabetes, tuberculosis, asthma and terminal diseases should be released from custody forthwith.”