Apr 3, 2020

CORONA VIRUS: Enforcement of Lockdown and Brutalisation of Citizens | Dele Adesina SAN


It is no longer news that on the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Government of Nigeria and various State Governments put in place some drastic measures to prevent the spread of the life-threatening scourge. The danger posed to humanity and Nigerian citizens inclusive, by the ravaging pandemic has been taken very seriously by governments all over the world. For this purpose, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria announced a total lockdown of Lagos, Abuja and Ogun States in the national broadcast of March 29, 2020. Other State Governments have followed suit through the announcement of various restrictions and stay-at-home Orders by Executive Orders and/or regulations pursuant to their powers under the relevant enabling Quarantine Act.

The concern of this write-up is the manner of enforcement of such Executive Orders, restrictions and regulations by the law enforcement agencies and men of the Nigerian Army which has brought with it Police brutalisation, dehumanization and outright death of the citizens. The Tribune of today published the story of someone that was killed in Ogunnu, a suburb of Warri in Delta State, while driving for refusing to stop when he was reportedly flagged down by the security personnel. These various acts of brutalisation and dehumanization of citizens must be condemned in its entirety. It is an extra-judicial killing, it is illegal and absolutely unconstitutional.

It needs to be emphasised that the very reason for the announcement of these stay-at-home Orders and other restrictions on movements is essentially to save lives. Hence, the phrase: stay-at-home to stay safe. If the objective of a policy is to save lives, it is therefore totally illogical and inherently contradictory to kill in order to enforce safety measures. Indeed the point must be made for the umpteenth time that it is the business of the regular Police to enforce and maintain law and Order in the society as distinct from the Armed Forces whose duty is to protect the nation against external aggression and internal insurrection. The objective of the measures will be defeated if human lives are wasted, treated with disdain and their Human Rights violated with reckless abandon.

We saw a good example of how to enforce law and Order by the reported arraignment and conviction of twelve (12) persons for violating the provisions of Ekiti State Coronavirus Prevention of Infection Regulations 2020. The violators were tried and fined by the Chief Magistrate Court of Ekiti State. We advise everyone involved in the enforcement of these Orders in the different States of the Federation to take que from this example by arresting the violators and arraigning them before the appropriate Court for trial and sanction if found guilty. To do otherwise is to resort to self-help which is a product of executive lawlessness, an anathema and abomination in a constitutional democracy such as ours.

I call on the civil populace to see the reason behind the restrictions and other safety measures and directives to put up with the momentary inconvenience in order to experience the long term gain for ourselves, our families, the Nation and in the interest of public health and public safety. May I also say that any further act of brutalisation, dehumanization and unprofessional conduct on the part of the law enforcement agencies should be reported to the nearest Nigerian Bar Association Branch or directly to the Inspector-General of Police for necessary actions. With regards to the Armed Forces, report should be directed to the Defence Headquarters by sending text or WhatsApp messages through the telephone numbers provided by the Headquarters of the Nigerian Army.

Let us join hands together in unity of purpose to fight the Coronavirus war and live after the guaranteed victory.

Dated April 3, 2020.
Dele Adesina SAN
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