President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the restriction of movements in Nigeria’s capital city Abuja and Lagos, which are the hardest hit by a coronavirus in the country. “Based on the advice of the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC, I am directing the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days with effect from 11 pm on Monday, 30th March 2020.
“This restriction will also apply to Ogun State due to its close proximity to Lagos and the high traffic between the two States,” Buhari said in a national address on Sunday evening. “All citizens in these areas are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period.”
Nigeria on Thursday, February 28, confirmed its first case of coronavirus in Lagos State. The first index case, an Italian businessman, and two other persons have since been discharged. One death has been recorded so far. Since then, Nigeria’s National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed 110 more cases, making it 111 cases in total as at 8:30 pm Sunday. The NCDC announced that it discovered 14 new cases of coronavirus. “Fourteen new cases of #COVID19 have been reported in Nigeria; 9 in Lagos and 5 in FCT,” NCDC tweeted Sunday night. “As at 09:30 pm 29th March there are 111 confirmed cases of #COVID19 reported in Nigeria with 1 death.”
While the numbers of cases keep increasing, Nigeria has shut all schools and tertiary institutions in the country. It has also placed travel restrictions on 15 countries with a high prevalence of coronavirus and suspended its visa on arrival policy to curb the spread of the virus. All gathering in Nigeria is currently been barred. These measures, Buhari said, are the best and most efficient way to avoid getting infected is through regular hygienic and sanitary practices as well as social distancing. Buhari noted that business closures in the nation’s capital city, Lagos and Ogun State will cause many citizens inconveniences but urged them to see it as a sacrifice for the good of the country. “Our focus, therefore, remains to urgently and drastically contain these cases, and to support other states and regions in the best way we can,” Buhari said. He urged all citizens to adhere to the guidelines released by the NCDC to avoid getting infected, along with regular hygiene to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
The 14-day restriction of movement imposed on the two states and Abuja to curb the spread of Covid-19 to other states will not apply to hospitals and all related medical establishments as well as organizations in health care related manufacturing and distribution. Also exempted were commercial establishments - food processing, distribution and retail companies; petroleum distribution and retail entities; power generation, transmission and distribution companies; and private security companies. “Although these establishments are exempted, access will be restricted and monitored”, he added.
Buhari said workers in telecommunication companies, broadcasters, print and electronic media staff who can prove they were unable to work from home were also exempted from these restrictions. He further stated: “All seaports in Lagos shall remain operational in accordance with the guidelines I issued earlier. Vehicles and drivers conveying essential cargoes from these Ports to other parts of the country will be screened thoroughly before departure by the Ports Health Authority. “Furthermore, all vehicles conveying food and other essential humanitarian items into these locations from other parts of the country will also be screened thoroughly before they are allowed to enter these restricted areas.”
In a swift reaction, human rights lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa (SAN), faulted President Buhari on the proposed restriction of movement in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun states. The President, he said, has no powers to restrict the movement of persons without recourse to the National Assembly. According to him, the President has not invoked his powers under the constitution to declare any state of emergency, which must be approved by the National Assembly. He said, “We are running a constitutional democracy and it is illegal for the President to take over the affairs of any State of the Federation without the express consent of the people of that State through their elected representatives.
“It is only the Governor of the State through the House of Assembly of the State that can make any declaration concerning the people of that State. Little wonder that the President could not cite any law that he relied upon for his declaration. I support every measure taken to contain the Coronavirus pandemic but such must be in accordance with law. If we allow this to stay, then tomorrow the President may just impose total restriction on all States of the Federation for whatever reason.
“I humbly urge the President to reverse the restrictions and work with the States concerned in accordance with the laws of our land”, he said. The rights advocate also said there must be measures put in place to address the financial consequences of the proposed shutdown, especially for small scale businesses, those who depend on daily earnings and the needy and vulnerable members of the societies to be affected.