Questioning the legality of the presidential order restricting movements in Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states is unnecessary as the action taken is not only important but very well backed by extant Nigerian laws, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, has said.
He also said the governors also enjoy same power under the Quarantine Act to declare a lockdown following outbreak of pandemic diseases.
His position ran contrary to that held by Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha, who said lockdowns by state governors was illegal.
Mustapha said this Monday while providing an update on the activities of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja.
Situating the powers of both the president and the governors under the Quarantine Act, the vice president said they are empowered to do so.
He said this in Abuja while responding to questions at the Google Hangout programme organised by HACK COVID-19 Call Centre – a private sector initiative supporting Nigeria’s battle against the pandemic.
“Regarding the legality of the shutdowns announced by the president yesterday, -Sunday-I think it is entirely legal. These steps are proactive, very relevant, important and backed by law.
“I am not so sure some of the people who have commented on the issue have come across the Quarantine Act. There is a Quarantine Act of 1926, it’s been published in all of the Laws of Nigeria, every edition of the Laws of Nigeria, it is there,” he said.
Referring specifically to the part of the legislation that empowers the president to order movement restrictions in any part the country, Osinbajo said: “What the Act does is that it allows the president to designate any local area, any part of the country, as a place that may be infected or under the threat of a communicable disease, and he can then make regulations of any kind.
“For instance, he can say, people should not go out; no public gatherings etc. So, it is a regulation that gives the president powers and these powers come from the National Assembly because, of course, it is an act of the National Assembly.”
The vice president also explained that by virtue of the constitutional rules, the 1926 Act is deemed to be an Act of the National Assembly.
“So, the president has extensive powers under the Quarantine Act of 1926. Also, governors have extensive powers under the same Quarantine Act,” he said.
Osinbajo urged all interested individuals and groups to personally go through the legislation in order to understand the provisions therein, saying, “it is barely a one page legislation, so it is not particularly difficult to find the relevant provisions and it is not particularly difficult to read, very straightforward. So, the president has all the powers.”
Speaking further about the legal precedent for the president’s ‘no movement order,’ Osinbajo said: “Many of us are not familiar with the Influenza pandemic that killed several millions around the world in 1918. At that time regulations were made here, very similar to what we have today, although that was under the colonial authorities.”
“They also banned public gatherings, banned gatherings in places of worship then. So, there is even good historical precedence for some of what we are doing today,” he said.
The Influenza pandemic was referred to as the Spanish Flu and it killed thousands in Nigeria and millions across the world then.
Figure now 135
As at 11:15 am Tuesday, the figure of confirmed cases had risen to 135 and two deaths.
A breakdown of the figure as provided by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), showed Lagos has 81; FCT 25; Ogun 4; Enugu 2; Ekiti 1, Oyo 8; Edo 2; Bauchi 2; Osun 5; Rivers 1; Benue 1; and Kaduna trailing with 3 cases.
Obasanjo, other ex-African leaders
Meanwhile, 12 former African leaders, including former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, have called for an emergency plan to combat the COVID-19 onslaught in Africa at a continental or regional level.
The former leaders made the appeal in a four-paragraph statement, titled: Appeal for preparation for Africa to confront the onslaught of COVID-19.
The statement was signed by the former Nigerian leader and his 11 other colleagues.
The statement made available to journalists Tuesday through Obasanjo’s media aide, Mr. Kehinde Akinyemi,
It reads: “In the almost four months of the outbreak of COVID-19, we have seen the mitigation effect or otherwise by the preparatory and preventive actions made by different nations and international organisations to combat the killer virus. The results have been related to seriousness of preparation and preventive measures taken including the level of healthcare measures and delivery.
“The epidemiological progression in already affected areas has indicated that the worst case is yet to occur in Africa. Taking into account the weak healthcare bases in Africa, the conurbation, and the communal living of our people particularly in ghettos and poverty-stricken areas of our cities, the outbreak of COVID-19 in these areas of African communities and cities will be a monumental disaster. Serious measures have to be taken for containment and for addressing any national epidemic.
“We, as concerned African leaders, note the efforts that African governments are making within their limited resources to deal with this global challenge. We, however, appeal to leaders and elites at national, regional, and continental level and to international organisations and foundations to draw up a concrete, effective, and continental emergency plan to combat COVID-19 onslaught at its crescendo in Africa which will be soon. With porous borders all over Africa, national efforts will not be enough but regional and continental.
“We particularly call on AU, UN, WHO, World Bank and G-20 to urgently have a plan that will moderate the social and economic effect of the onslaught of COVID-19 on Africa.”
The statement was co-signed by former presidents of Botswana; Mr. Festus Mogae,
Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Mr. John Kufour of Ghana, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Mrs. Joyce Banda of Malawi.
Others include former presidents of Mozambique, Mr. Joaquim Chissano; Mr. Thabo Mbeki of South Africa; Mr. Kgalema Motlanthe also of South Africa, Mr. Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania; Mr. Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Mohamed Marzouki of Tunisia