Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka has taken on the Federal Government over the lockdown on Lagos, Ogun and Abuja, describing the action as illegal.
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President Muhammadu Buhari during a broadcast on Sunday, announced the measure to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.
But Soyinka, who is a professor of literature, in a statement said that the president lacks the power to unilaterally lockdown a state since there was no war or emergency that could warrant that curfew be placed on the affected states.
In a statement titled: Between COVID and Constitutional Encroachment,” Soyinka argued that what the president and his aide should have done was to device measures that can further assist in containment of the virus in Nigeria.
Soyinka urged constitutional lawyers and members of the legislative houses to step into the issue, educate everyone and prevent any lockdown in the three cities.
“The worst development I can conceive of us is to have a situation where rational measures for the containment of the Corona pandemic are rejected on account of their questionable genesis.
“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.
“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,” he said.
He explained that a president who had been “conspicuously AWOL” the Rip van Winkle of Nigerian history, was now alleged to have woken up after a prolonged siesta, and begun to issue orders.
He asked: “Who actually instigates these orders anyway? From where do they really emerge? What happens when orders are in 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 decentralized 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.
“The universal imperative and urgency of this affliction should not become an opportunistic launch pad for a sneak RE-CENTRALISATION, no matter how seemingly insignificant its appearance. I urge governors and legislators to be especially watchful. No epidemic is ever cured with constitutional piracy. It only lays down new political viruses for the future,” Soyinka said.

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