After restricting movement in Abuja, Lagos, and Ogun States, President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the COVID-19 Regulations 2020, which declares coronavirus pandemic a “dangerous infectious disease”.
Presidential Spokesman, Femi Adesina, made this known in a stern statement released on Monday in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Adesina said the regulations, effective March 30, 2020, “also gave legal backing to the various measures outlined in the President’s National Broadcast on March 29, 2020, such as Restriction/Cessation of Movement in Lagos, FCT and Ogun State and others toward containing the spread of the pandemic in the country”.
He added that the regulations are “in line with the exercising of the powers conferred on Buhari by Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Quarantine Act (CAP Q2 LFN 2004), and all other powers enabling him in that behalf.”
Adesina noted that to ensure that “Nigerians can still perform on-line transactions and use ATMs whilst observing these restrictions, exemption is granted financial system and money markets to allow very skeletal operations in order to keep the system in light operations during the pendency of these regulations.”
Criticisms have trailed Buhari’s decision to restrict movement in the three areas. According to the critics such as Senator Dino Melaye, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, human rights lawyer, there was no legal backing for the restriction.
They argued that the president failed to recourse to the National Assembly before giving the directive and that makes his directive unconstitutional and illegal.
However, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, berated the critics who raised issues over the lockdown.
He noted that the president gave the directive at a time the federal lawmakers are on recess and the National Assembly was shut down over the coronavirus pandemic.
Malami argued that the quarantine act empowers the president to restrict movement since COVID-19 has been declared an infectious disease.
“Section 3 of the act enables the president to declare any part of Nigeria as an infected area,” he said.
“Section 4 of the act further empowers the president to make regulations to prevent the introduction, spread and transmission of any dangerous infectious disease.”
The minister added that the president could even declare a state of emergency for 10 days before consulting the legislators.
“It is important to inform the discerning members of the public that the President did not make a declaration of a state of emergency under Section 305(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which would have required the concurrence of both houses of the national assembly,” Malami said.
“Even at that Section 305(6)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) permits a proclamation of a State of Emergency to run for a period of 10 days without the approval of the National Assembly when the parliament is not in session as in the present situation wherein the National Assembly has shut down.
“The learned silk also goofed when he questioned the president’s powers to restrict movement and claiming that such powers can only be exercised by the state governors and the respective state assemblies.
“It is clear from the president’s broadcast that what His Excellency sought to address is a public emergency occasioned by a dangerous and infectious coronavirus disease.
“The restriction of movement came on the heels of advice received by the President from the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, the two focal agencies in the fight against COVID-19.”