Gov Nyesom Wike, Stranded travelers at Rivers State border, Richarmond O. Natha-Alade

COVID-19: Gov Wike, others Govs decision to Close State Borders, overzealous, Illegal, Spontaneous and Inhumane โ€“ Richarmond O. Natha-Alade

In efforts to clamp down on the spread of the deadly Corona Virus disease (COVID-19), many of States Chief Executives may have thrown caution to the wind, neglecting the constitution and other laws regulating their powers vis-ร -vis the present pandemic situation in the country.

Without mincing words, three days ago, the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike announced his decision to close all borders and routes connecting and entering Rivers State; therefore limiting, restricting and placing total ban on the inflow and outflow of Nigerians and/or any of their vehicles in the state. Just as announced, within 24 hours of such announcement, same was brought to fore and enforced without giving considerations to necessary laws, humanity, likely panics and untoward hardships such reckless decision could bring about; this, despite not putting in place adequate planning and necessary legal framework.
The fundamental human rights provisions as contained in Chapter 4 of the Constitution are not for fun. They are binding and enforceable against individuals and authorities at all time. The importance of such rights has globally availed and binding since the declarations of United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 10 December 1948 stemming from Resolution 217 at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France and the African Declaration on Human and People Rights (AFDHPR), also known as the Banjul Charter 1981. Nigeria is a signatory to both declarations. At the same time, the said declarations had been fully domesticated by our National Assembly as forming part of our laws. These rights which includes the rights of citizens to move freely within their geographical space are also contained in our Constitution, of which no person or government authorities can depart therefrom; being inalienable and compulsory to all human except under justifiable and reasonable laws enacted in line with section 45 of our constitution; the section which prompts and activates the derogation under necessary given conditions and circumstances.
Section 41 of the constitution provides for freedom of movement of all citizens. For ease of reference, i hereby provide the said Section 41(1) as follows:
โ€œEvery citizens of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefromโ€
The only direct and related derogation as regarding the above provision is contained in Section 45 (1)  of same constitution which also provides as follows:
(1) Nothing in sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society (a) in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or (b) for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom or other persons
Law making or dictatorship is not a lawful duty of any democratically elected Governor who may may be hiding under the clone or nomenclature of Executive Orders. By the provision of section 41(1); โ€œNothing in sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic societyโ€ฆโ€ that clause points to the fact that laws must be made which is reasonably justifiable based on prevailing conditions as COVID-19. That brings us to the question as to who has such power and responsibility to make such laws. Section 6 of the Constitution of Nigeria vests law making powers on issues relating to state matters in the hands of the State House of Assembly.
Considering the above, the question needed be asked is, was any law in place before Governor Wike rushed to close boarder of Rivers State without considering all dire consequences attached to same? Obviously the answer is No! Most unfortunately many states of the Federation are following suit without recourse to necessary legal framework.
The Quarantine Act of Nigeria gives the presidency and Governors the power to issue directives, guidelines and propose laws which can be passed speedily, subject to the provisions of the constitution. The Lagos State Government must be commended for being proactive in passing Emergency Corona Virus Pandemic Law 2020. Such legal framework gives the police power to arrest, detain, quarantine and prosecute offenders under the law. It gives state Governor the power to do some certain things in the interest of the people of Lagos and same law also ratifies the Executive guidelines / Orders of the Governor of Lagos State to effectively curtail the decease. this law stands unlike mere executive orders that appeals only to reasons, morals and understanding of subjects of their authority.
Nothing of such legal framework is yet to be put in place in Rivers State and some of the states taking a cue from Rivers State, Governor Wike. jumped the gun and was extraordinarily hasty in taking such steps without recourse to consequences including the violation of Nigerians fundamental rights.
Outside the lack of adequate timing and warnings from concerned authorities to allow people move in and out of the state to their place of comfort, convenience and survival (most especially), a lot of travelers hoping to enter and/or pass through the state are stranded and trapped with reckless abandonment without any pre-warning as to such closure; therefore exposing their lives to danger, attacks, hunger and discomforts. Such declaration and enforcement from Rivers State authorities raises a lot of concerns and worsens the panics the disease has in due time created. The people locked-up in their numbers and in thousands at various border of Rivers State are further exposed to the danger of contacting the virus. Their rights have been flagrantly violated by the government of Rivers State. They have been treated inhumanly and inhumanely. Such government ineptitude and quackery in effective management of crisis must be challenged as soon as this trying time is over. The affected persons much be adequately compensated for the breach of their fundamental rights.
In the light of the foregoing, we  Nigerians earnestly expects the President of Nigeria to to as a matter of urgency declare state of emergency to restrict activities in various states where the Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged vis-a-vis putting in place necessary legal framework arising from the deadly pandemic in line with the provisions of section 304 of the constitution and the lettered sections of the Quarantine Act of Nigeria.
In all, it is important to remind our leaders of the need to learn to be lawful, considerate, empathetic, sympathetic and humane towards the people they govern. Democracy is not Militocracy. They must learn that a lot of responsibilities is attached to leadership

May God heal our land and bless the efforts of our leaders.
Richarmond O. Natha-Alade is a legal Practitioner and Principal Partner at Sun Natha-Alade & Partners (SNATHAP)

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