Nigeria like the UK and all other countries are currently locked in a battle with the contagious COVID-19 disease, governments have responded with laws restricting movement of the population in a bid to control the spread of the virus. The Lagos State of Nigeria like the UK has recorded its 1stconviction under its COVID-19 laws with the conviction of popular actress Funke Akindele
The firm of Everlaw Associates writes to draw a parallel between the 1st conviction under the UK and Lagos State law. Find a link to the full article here.
UK passed a Corona Virus Act 2020 which was immediately called into action in the conviction of a lady, Marie Dinou on 30 March 2020 for loitering between platforms at the Newcastle Central railway station. Subsequently some irregularity in the law under which she was charged has led to the conviction being set aside after review by the prosecution authorities. Here’s a link to the story from The Sun Newspapers (UK)
Similarly, legal experts in Nigeria have faulted the 1st trial and conviction under the Lagos State Government COVID-19. The team from Everlaw Associates while making it clear their article does not condone actions aimed at worsening the COVID pandemic however opined that it would serve the government well to situate its fight against the pandemic within the laws of Nigeria.
The article analysis the sections of the Lagos State Infectious Disease (Emergency Prevention) Regulations 2020 under which the Defendants were charged and concludes that it does not create a “social distancing” offence. They also report that efforts to confirm if the Governor had made any social distancing Directives under the Infectious Disease Regulations was fruitless. Find a link to download a copy of the Infectious Disease Regulations here.
The authors also worry that even if a directive had been passed it may be ineffectual under the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and warned that this would constitute a ground for setting aside the conviction.
The article advocates an amendment of the Infectious Disease Regulations but with an eye on the provisions of the Public Health Law and the Quarantine Act. However, the best option advanced was for Lagos State to pass a Corona Virus law like the UK did.
The authors urge the both the Lagos State and Federal Government of Nigeria to pass Corona Virus Laws that go beyond social distancing issues to provide for welfare of the people such as relief from eviction for tenants, labour and employment law rights during the pandemic, and other social welfare interventions.
The writers conclude by urging the Government to also pass a law to declare the COVID-19 pandemic a statutory force majeure event as Nigeria under the common law system does not have an implied provision for force majeure.
Marx Ikongbeh MCIArb (UK) is an Abuja based Legal Practitioner and the Principal of Everlaw Associates.