COVID-19: FG has constitutional right to lockdown Nigeria – Odinkalu

Prof. Chidi Odinkalu

By Anayo Ezugwu

Professor Chidi Odinkalu, former chairman, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, has said that the federal government has constitutional rights to restrict movement of persons in the country. But he said the restriction must be within reasonable rules of engagement.

In an exclusive interview with Realnews at the weekend, Odinkalu said, “In terms of what the constitution says, section 41 guarantees the right to freedom of movement, and section 45 allows for some limitations to that right in accordance with law that is “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society” on various grounds, one of which is public health.

“Obviously, COVID-19 is a public health crisis of the sort that can justify limitations. So, at first appearance, you can say that there is constitutional scope for restricting movement in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. That said, it is important to underscore the points at least. First, there is an inherent rule of proportionality in every rule and every step.

“So, the limitations imposed by government are not at large. Second, section 17(2)(c) of the same constitution requires that “governmental actions shall be humane.” You cannot lock up or lockdown hungry people living on the margins of subsistence or impoverishment without options for how they are going to feed themselves and think that is humane.

“Third, the enforcement of the lockdowns have got to be reasonable under Rules of Engagement that are transparent and monitorable. You can easily say that so far, that is not the case.”

Odinkalu regretted that the law enforcement agencies are using the restriction order to brutalise and kill innocent Nigerians. “So far what my friend, Ogaga Ifowodo, rightly calls “Sojavirus” is shooting and killing innocent people in Nigeria on a scale of more than double every life taken by the Coronavirus. So, for every Nigerian reportedly killed by the Coronavirus so far, about two and a half have been shot by “Sojavirus”.

“I am not here even speaking about the people who have been beaten up, tortured or had their subsistence businesses destroyed. And no accountability has been levied for any of this. So, in the end, “Sojavirus” will kill lots more than the Coronavirus could even harm in Nigeria. It’s criminal. Mind you, I have not mentioned those who will be killed by malaria, maternal mortality, infant mortality, hunger and malnutrition, Lassa fever, etc.

“This is how government loses authority. The sad thing is the same people who abuse citizens like this run away or desert when they are sent to the theatres where they have to fight the real enemies of Nigeria like Boko Haram, armed Herders, bandits or cattle rustlers,” he said.

– Apr. 13, 2020 @ 19:25 GMT |