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Falana: Soldiers can’t be deployed to enforce lockdown

Falana: Soldiers can’t be deployed to enforce lockdown
March 31
11:56 2020
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Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, says it is illegal to deploy soldiers during the lockdown over coronavirus.

In a national broadcast on Sunday, President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered a lockdown of Ogun, Abuja and Lagos from 11pm on Monday.

But Dapo Abiodun, governor of Ogun, said he succeeded in convincing Buhari to extend that of his state till Friday to enable food supply.

There had been criticisms over Buhari’s decision to restrict movement in those areas because, according to some lawyers, there was no legal backing.

But the president later signed quarantine regulations on lockdown. Femi Adesina, his spokesman, said the regulations, effective March 30, 2020, “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”.

In a statement, Falana said while the president has the powers to adopt any measures to tackle COVID-19 pandemic, the plan to deploy troops should be reconsidered.

“Following the national broadcast of President Buhari on the COVID-19 pandemic, some lawyers have questioned the constitutional validity of the restriction of locomotion of people in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states. No doubt, the President is empowered to adopt any measures deemed fit to combat the dangerous disease but such measures have to be spelt out in a Regulation made pursuant to section 305 of the Constitution or under the Quarantine Act. Otherwise the presidential order on restriction of movement in the affected areas cannot be enforced by the police,” he said.

“However, while the nation’s armed forces should be commended for making their medical facilities available to members of the public in the fight against the highly dangerous virus the plan to dispatch armed soldiers to the streets to enforce the COVID-19 guidelines should be shelved because it is illegal.

“For the umpteenth time, I am compelled to draw the attention of the military authorities to the case of Yussuf v Obasanjo (2005) 18 NWLR (Pt ) where Salami JCA (as he then was) held that “It is up to the police to protect our nascent democracy and not the military, otherwise the democracy might be wittingly or unwittingly militarized. This is not what the citizenry bargained for in wrestling power from the military in 1999. Conscious steps should be taken to civilianise the polity and thereby ensure the survival of and sustenance of democracy.”

Falana advised the military to focus more on the war against insurgency in the north-east while the police and allied security agencies should be allowed to enforce the COVID-19 regulations and guidelines.

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