Coronavirus: Right to freedom doesn’t make govt order on gathering unconstitutional ― SAN

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Emeka Ozoani, on Sunday, argued that while the constitution allows for peaceful assembly and guarantees freedom of movement, nothing in the constitution can invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.

Ozoani made this assertion while reacting to arguments that the government cannot constitutionally stop people from gathering for social or religious activities in the wake of rise in confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country.

According to him, those claiming that restricting people to stay at home is unconstitutional because of the right to freedom of movement, personal liberty and association are wrong.

He said while it is correct to submit that every person and citizen of Nigeria has a constitutional right to peaceful assembly and association as well as freedom of movement through the provisions of Sections 40 and 41 of the CFRN 1999 as amended, the country is not under martial law.

“It is correct to submit that every person and citizen of Nigeria has a constitutional right to peaceful assembly and association as well as freedom of movement through the provisions of Sections 40 and 41 of the CFRN 1999 as amended.

“I also agree to the extent that martial law hasn’t been declared and also the constitution or its part suspended,” he said but however argued that the stance that the government’s actions and orders are at best unconstitutional is unacceptable.

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“I humbly, beg to differ with due respect bearing in mind the obvious fact that the world is grappling with COVID-19 virus, threatening the existence of persons and citizens the constitution seeks to protect. The derogation provided in the constitution as a safeguard supports ably the position the government has taken in this regard.

“For clarity, Section 45(1)(a) and (b) of the CFRN 1999 as amended provides inter–alia that “Nothing in sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society–(a)in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or (b) for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons.”

“l do not want to suffer you with numerous case laws on the subject this weekend, suffice only to say that though we are not under martial law, the orders made so far are reasonably justifiable in our democratic society. See sections
39,40,41,read together with section 45 (1) (a)and (b) of the CFRN 1999 as amended,” Ozoani concluded.

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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