Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, says the federal government needs legal backing to enforce its regulations to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
The lawyer said this in reaction to a comment made by Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture.
The minister had threatened that those who flouted the government’s directives to contain the virus would be dealt with according to the law.
But in a statement on Thursday, Falana said the government has itself to blame if anyone flouts the measures put in place to contain the disease.
The senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said he had asked President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency because it is on that basis that anyone who flouts the regulations could be prosecuted.
“Out of frustration, the federal government has threatened to deal with religious and political leaders who have been flouting the measures put in place to contain the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
“However, while no political or religious leader should be allowed to risk the lives of the Nigerian people by disregarding measures that have been announced by the authorities the Federal Government has itself to blame for failing to proclaim a state of emergency to deal with the ravaging COVID-19.
“It is common knowledge that leaders of many countries have since invoked the provisions of relevant statutes to declare a state of emergency before imposing restriction on the locomotion of people and lockdown of towns.
“Our appeal to President Mohammadu Buhari to proclaim a state of emergency throughout the federation pursuant to section 305 of the constitution of Nigeria has been ignored without any explanation.
“This is due to the fact that the Federal Government has failed to realise that we are no longer under the jackboots when Nigerians were sanctioned for flouting regulations which were based on the whims and caprices of military dictators.”
He said since the presidency is on lock-down, governors should invoke the quarantine act as a measure to contain the spread of the virus.
“Having confirmed that the presidency is on lockdown we are compelled to call on State Governors to apply the Quarantine Act which provides for and regulate the imposition of quarantine and to make other provisions for preventing the introduction into and spread in Nigeria and the transmission from Nigeria of dangerous infectious diseases,” Falana said.
“In particular, state governors are enjoined to invoke section 8 of the Act which empowers them to make such declarations and issue necessary regulations to combat any infectious disease like the COVID-19.”
The lawyer said once the declaration is made, the police can prosecute anyone who violates any regulation on the basis of the quarantine act.