In response to the shut down of access to Rivers State through the land, water and the air by Governor Nyesom Wike, a young Nigerian civil rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong has said that although he supports restriction of movement, the “executive fiat is an act of brazen illegality and unconstitutional.”
The young lawyer in a series on Twitter said that Wike is just a governor and not a monarch to give express orders without following the Constitution of the State. His tweets read:
As a senior lawyer and member of the Body of Benchers, you know that you cannot shut air, land and sea borders in Rivers State by executive fiat. Your arbitrary declaration to that effect offends Section 41 of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of movement.
— Inibehe Effiong (@InibeheEffiong) March 25, 2020
Dear @GovWike As a senior lawyer and member of the Body of Benchers, you know that you cannot shut air, land and sea borders in Rivers State by executive fiat. Your arbitrary declaration to that effect offends Section 41 of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of movement.
We all know that the coronavirus pandemic has engendered public safety and warrants taking drastic measures to curb same. However, as a governor, you took oath to uphold, preserve and protect the Constitution and the law. You cannot govern outside the dictates of the law.
Sec. 305 (4) of the Constitution gives you, with approval of 2/3 of the members of the House of Assembly, to ask the President to declare a state of emergency in Rivers State. Section 8 of the Quarantine Act gives you authority to issue regulations to tackle COVID-19 pandemic.
To the best of my knowledge, the President has neither declared a state of emergency in Rivers State nor have you made regulations pursuant to the Quarantine Act. I am also not aware of any law passed by the State Assembly that empowers you to stop entry into or exit from Rivers.
Your resort to executive fiat is thus an act of brazen illegality and unconstitutional. If non-lawyers say that we do not need enabling laws to impose restrictions on the fundamental rights of citizens, they can be pardoned. But a lawyer cannot. You are a governor, not a monarch.
I support restriction of movement. But not through tyrannical means. All democratic countries that have imposed such restrictions over COVID-19 relied on enabling laws. We should stop behaving as if we are in Zoo where might is right. Despotism is incompatible with democracy.
It should not take you and your Attorney General more than 24 hours to draft enabling regulations pursuant to the Quarantine Act. Rivers State cannot be ruled by executive fiat. Kindly follow due process or rescind your illegal decision. Stop embarrassing the legal profession.