Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari needs to declare a state of emergency across the country before restrictions can be enforced to forestall the spread of the coronavirus.
Mr Falana spoke via a statement on Thursday in reaction to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who said the government would prosecute anyone who flouts its directives meant to contain the virus.
The lawyer, however, emphasised the need for legal backing to be provided before such moves are made, saying the Federal Government was working ‘out of frustration’ in its threat to deal with “religious and political leaders who have been flouting the measures put in place to contain the coronavirus pandemic.”
“However, 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,” Falana said.
“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.
“Our appeal to President Mohammadu Buhari to proclaim a state of emergency throughout the federation pursuant to section 305 of the constitution of Nigeria has been ignored without any explanation.
“This is due to the fact that the Federal Government has failed to realise that we are no longer under the jackboots when Nigerians were sanctioned for flouting regulations which were based on the whims and caprices of military dictators.”
He urged state governments to apply the Quarantine Act which the police can use in prosecuting anyone who violates regulations made in respect of the times.
“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,” he said.
“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.”