Professor Wole Soyinka has frowned at the Sunday lockdown order on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states by President Muhammadu Buhari to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country.
The Nobel laureate in a Monday statement wondered if the president has the power to order such lockdown.
While calling on constitutional lawyers and lawmakers to clarify the legality or illegality of the lockdown, the Nobel laureate warned against “constitutional piracy” in the fight against coronavirus in the country.
“Constitutional lawyers and our elected representatives should kindly step into this and educate us, mere lay minds. The worst development I can conceive of us is to have a situation where rational measures for the containment of the Coronavirus pandemic are rejected on account of their questionable genesis,” said the statement, titled ‘Between COVID and Constitutional Encroachment’.
“This is a time for Unity of Purpose, not nitpicking dissensions. So, before this becomes a habit, a question: does President Buhari have the powers to close down state borders? We want clear answers. We are not in a war emergency.
The statement goes on: “Appropriately focussed on measures for the saving lives, and committed to making sacrifices for the preservation of our communities, we should nonetheless remain alert to any encroachment on constitutionally demarcated powers. We need to exercise collective vigilance, and not compromise the future by submitting to interventions that are not backed by law and constitution.
“Who actually instigates these orders anyway? From where do they really emerge? What happens when the orders conflict with state measures, the product of a systematic containment strategy – `including even trial-and-error and hiccups – undertaken without let or leave of the Centre. So far, the anti-COVID-19 measures have proceeded along the rails of decentralised thinking, multilateral collaboration and technical exchanges between states.
“The Centre is obviously part of the entire process, and one expects this to be the norm, even without the epidemic’s frontal assault on the Presidency itself. Indeed, the Centre is expected to drive the overall effort, but in collaboration, with extraordinary budgeting and refurbishing of facilities”.