DON'T MISS : Talking Africa New Podcast – GERD: Sudan got a raw deal from 1959 treaty with Egypt

Coronavirus: Demolition of hotels in Rivers State illegal use of lockdown?

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Corona Chronicles: 18 May – 22 May

By Oluwatosin Adeshokan
Posted on Thursday, 21 May 2020 16:00

96251309_2110437842433729_2041703594251517952_n
Rivers state Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike at site of demolished hotels on 10 May 2020 (Simeon Nwakaudu/Special Assistant to Wike via facebook)

Many countries, including Nigeria, announced lockdowns to combat the coronavirus. Different states in Nigeria implemented their own policies.

As the pandemic has forced governments to find ways to slow the spread of the deadly virus,  several questions and objections have begun to surface around the willingness and ability of governments to abide by the law and not use COVID-19 as an excuse to operate outside of the rules.

READ MORE: Nairobi’s fight against Coronavirus gets violent

After the President Muhammadu Buhari announced a lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states in Nigeria, other state governors like Rivers and Kaduna states announced their own.  Nyesom Wike, the governor of Rivers state, announced measures for a 4 May lockdown on Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt Local Government Areas in the state.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Nigeria’s proposed COVID-19 law tears the country apart

Alongside the directive to lockdown the state, residents must abide by the “compulsory wearing of face mask in vehicles and public places, closure of all land, sea and air borders and entry routes into the state; and closure of all open markets, including slaughters, hotels, guest houses, cinemas, bars, and restaurants, etc.”

He continued: “please note that our enemy is invisible. Stay at home, maintain social distancing, wash your hands regularly, and stay safe.”

Controversy headlines following lockdown

After announcing the lockdown in just two local governments in Rivers state, on 10 May the governor ordered the demolition of two hotels –  Prodest Home and Etemeteh Hotel, both hospitality outfits in Eleme Local Government Area outside of the Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt local government areas. For residents of the state, the governor is going against the directions of his executive order.

“Wike was already gaining the support of the people as a governor doing his best to keep his people safe,” explains Chiamaka Nwobia, a trader from Port Harcourt. “Wike went around to arrest people and we understood why we had to stay home. [But] demolishing the hotels in a separate local government did not make any sense,” says Nwobia.

Several commentators from the state have claimed that Wike’s demolition order was politically motivated, after a member of the People’s Democratic Party claimed he was being targeted after flouting the lockdown order. Furthermore, the legality of the demolition ordered by the governor is being debated by lawyers.

“The executive order that empowers him to demolish the hotels is unconstitutional and undemocratic. The [executive] order was made pursuant to the quarantine act and a demolition is not one of the sanctions suggested. We have not taken a look at him becoming the complainant, prosecutor and judge,” Aniete Philip, a Lagos-based lawyer tells The Africa Report.

Nigerian law states that punishments cannot be administered without the judiciary.

Operations outside the law

“This case is very elementary and if it is pursued in the courts, the only problem they might have will be the delay in the Nigerian justice system,” explains Philip.  He continues: “The executive order is illegal and infringes on what only the judiciary can do. There is a court case that says that executive orders cannot restrict movement.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Nigeria’s varied responses to controlling COVID-19

For example, in Lagos, the state government had restricted the movement of people every last Saturday of the month for compulsory environmental sanitation through an “executive order”. But after a lawyer sued the government of the state, the environmental sanitation exercise has since been abandoned.

Problems from the top

When President Buhari initially announced the lockdown for Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states, lawyers and legal experts debated the legality of the president’s lockdown. While the announcement of the lockdown was accepted by many Nigerians as a necessary next step in dealing with the pandemic, it was argued that the President had given an order that was not backed by the law and essentially made himself a god in the country.

According to Philip, the announcement of a lockdown restricting the movement of Nigerians without declaring a state of emergency is illegal:The Quarantine Act allows the federal government to make regulations preventing the spread of contagious diseases, including restricting the movement of Nigerians in this time.”

READ MORE Coronavirus: Nigeria’s proposed COVID-19 law tears the country apart

The federal government has since adapted the president’s speech to keep it in line with the quarantine act effectively legalising the lockdown order.

Also in this in Depth:

Hopping to another crisis: Locusts and coronavirus in East Africa

As if taken from the playbook of an infuriated deity, buzzing black clouds cast shadows across countless fields in rural Ethiopia.

Coronavirus: South African Distell trying to curb hit from pandemic

Distell has toasted the performance of its Kenyan operations, while it is mulling the sale of two premium wine farms and other cost-reduction measures in South Africa as it grapples with COVID-19 restrictions.    

Coronavirus: South Sudan’s Riek Machar latest victim of COVID-19

The South Sudanese Vice-President, Riek Machar, and his wife, Defence Minister Angelina Teny, will self-quarantine for the next two weeks, after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Coronavirus: Is WHO Chief Tedros Ghebreyesus on the chopping block?

When Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus formally announced his candidacy for the post of the Director-General of the World Health Organization on 24 May 2016, he certainly received a mixed bag of interest and expectations.

Coronavirus: DRC doctor says clinical trials can begin using artemisia

Félix Tshisekedi received Jérôme Munyangi, who had just returned from living in exile in France. We had a chance to interview the Congolese doctor and researcher who advocates using artemisia to combat the coronavirus.

Coronavirus: 3D print of ventilators, easy and cheap to produce says lead researcher

During this period of unprecedented strain on global healthcare systems, governments and hospitals are calling for solutions that will address the shortage of ventilators and other critical equipment to save lives during the pandemic.

Burundi: WHO reps expelled ahead of polls set to go, despite COVID-19

Burundi expelled World Health Organisation (WHO) representatives in the country and warned election observers from the region that they would have to go into quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Nigeria VS Coronavirus: Cutting naira’s umbilical dependence on oil

The fragility of the reserves being used to support the naira and it's revalued rate shows that Nigeria needs to find new ways of earning foreign currency. In the first story of our series on the impact of COVID-19 on Nigeria, we look how its economy considers strategies to reduce the naira’s dependence on volatile oil prices.

COVID-19 is casting Magufuli in the worst light, in an election year

It began with Elizabeth Ane. President John Pombe Magufuli explained that he had suspected that the number of COVID-19 cases in Tanzania was being artificially inflated.

We value your privacy

The Africa Report uses cookies to provide you with a quality user experience, measure audience, and provide you with personalized advertising. By continuing on The Africa Report, you agree to the use of cookies under the terms of our privacy policy.
You can change your preferences at any time.