The Director-General, Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) Salihu Lukman said the debate about the legality of the current lockdown of Abuja, Lagos, and Abeokuta, the Ogun State Capital as a measure to contain the dreaded coronavirus, is a distraction and selfish reason to express opposition.
Lukman said so long as such opposition is not substantively disputing the efficacy of the lockdown as a strategic requirement for ensuring enforcement of isolation and social distancing in order to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country, it simply projects behavioural discrepancy, which conflicts with the new emergency timeline that COVID-19 imposes on the world.
The APC Chieftain noted that this is the time when every reasonable Nigerians primary survival instinct should be about saving human life, except if they are saying that COVID-19 is not a pandemic as declared by World Health Organization or isolation and social distancing are not what is required to contain COVID-19.
Lukman apparently reacting to the argument as to the legality of President Muhammadu Buhari decision to lockdown the three states with recourse to the National Assembly by Ebun-Olu Adegborua and Femi Falana, Senior Advocates of Nigeria and the Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka questioned, how else could government isolate, care and treat victims of COVID-19 in these cities given the scientific evidence that you could be a carrier without showing any sign of symptoms.
He said in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja that: “The moment of decision with respect to the lockdown is the declaration by the President in his speech of Sunday, March 29, for which our legal experts and activists are contesting that it should have been referred to the National Assembly at a time when the threat of COVID-19 will not permit the National Assembly to sit. All the debate about whether the President should seek the approval of the National Assembly before declaring the lockdown is therefore simply unrealistic in the circumstance.
“Without necessarily arguing that those canvassing for the declaration of a state of emergency through the approval of the National Assembly are cheaply doing so to attract public attention, one is tempted to ask what will be their response (Messrs. Adegboruwa and Falana) if the President were to request the National Assembly to reconvene for the purpose of considering any proposal for declaration of a state of emergency in this era whereby scientifically it is not advisable for any session of the National Assembly to hold?
“If the operative norm requires isolation and social distancing for the country to be able to contain the spread of COVID-19 virus, anybody, including Messrs. Adegboruwa and Falana, will be dishonest to canvass for any sitting of the National Assembly to enforce the issue of social distancing and isolation to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“Could it be that social distancing and isolation could be achieved without lockdown? From all the arguments, it doesn’t appear this is the point of contention. One readily conclusion, therefore, is that the argument against the lockdown as declared by the President is on account of the lack of recognition of the emergency timeline which COVID-19 has imposed on the world. Leaders across the world are struggling to respond to this new timeline. Largely because it is a challenge that borders on saving human life, citizens are required to work in partnership with governments.
“In our context, working to save Nigerians from the spread of COVID-19 shouldn’t be the responsibility of the government alone. It should be the responsibility of everyone, especially those of us with some claims to knowledge and pro-people consciousness. This is what the COVID-19 emergency timeline dictates. It is not about rigid applications of knowledge and laws.
“To miss the reality of this, may mean being reckless. It would appear many of us, including very experienced elder statesmen such as our Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, are still operating in the old activist timelines of being in opposition to the government. COVID-19 doesn’t allow us the luxury of government vs citizens dichotomy. This is not in any way suggesting that the government or the President should exercise absolute powers.
“To the extent that so far, across the world, as recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO), the three recommended best practices are testing, contact tracing and isolation, our knowledge and our laws should be deployed to compel citizens to observe isolation and social distancing. Under no circumstance should we seek to apply our knowledge and laws in manners that portends potentials to compromise the lives of citizens?
“The current debate around legality is needless and only confirms Prof. Honig’s assertion that ‘everything is justifiable and there can be no cause for regret when our survival is at stake.’ All the energy we expend to question the legality of decisions of government to lockdown these three cities with the highest potential to spread COVID-19 virus to every part of the country may only serve to distract the attention of government from the critical issue of ensuring effective response to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“Rather than asking the question of whether locking down Abuja, Lagos and Abeokuta are sufficient to contain the spread of COVID-19, we are seeking to undermine the government. Good enough, our state governments are responding in a way that expands the jurisdiction of the lockdown to cover virtually all parts of the country”.