The Coronavirus pandemic has led to the Government imposing some Regulations. The enforcement of same, however, has thrown up some challenges. The Following are your COVID-19 Regulations Rights and Obligations.
- If anybody claims to be an Enforcer of the COVID-19 Regulations, request politely to see his or her ID Card. You must be sure you are dealing with the right persons.
- You have the right to be treated with Human Dignity. Section 34 (1) of the Constitution states that every individual is entitled to be treated with the dignity of his person. You must insist you can not sit on the bare floor, if arrested about the COVID-19 Regulations and that you should be treated with respect and dignity. But always wear your face masks when in Public Places. Another question is where is a public place. If you are alone in your case that is not certainly a Public Place as you can not infect yourself .Once a Person joins you in the Car, you will have to wear your face masks as there is physical contact. Just wear your face mask. We must be extra careful to curb the pandemic.
- You must be read your rights after your arrest. A Statement must be obtained from you in Writing and there must be case file and Report of the Police Investigation. You must also be given your charge, you must be asked whether you require the services of a Lawyer and in compliance with extant the ADR Component of Criminal Proceedings, whether you want to resolve the matter with the State.
The Police Officer who arrested you must allow you to make a call to your lawyer, relative or friend, immediately after your arrest. You have a right to be arraigned in Court not more than 24 hours after your arrest.
4.No person has a right to arrest you unless there is a law that gives that person power of Arrest. A Task Force that is not a creation of a Written Law can not arrest Citizens. The Police can only arrest based on information provided by the Task Force. Section 4 of the Police Act, Cap P14, LFN,2004, gives the Police Power of Arrest. The Administration of Criminal Justice Laws and Act only recognize two Powers of Arrest :
a.The Police Power of Arrest
b. Private Citizens Power of Arrest.
- If arrested, you have a right to be arraigned before a Court of Competent Jurisdiction. You must be arraigned before a Court that is a creation of a Legislation. A Regulation of a Governor can not create a Court as a Court is not a Parastatal of the Executive it is a Component of the Judiciary. Sections 4,5 and 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999 (As Amended )delimits the Powers in a State. Section 4 which delimits Executive Powers did not give them, Powers to create Courts.
The Magistrate Court of a State is a Creation of the Magistrate Court Law of that State, a Legislation of the House of Assembly. There is nothing in any Written Laws in Nigeria as Mobile Courts. Only the Chief Judge of a State can designate or redesignate a Court as the Chief Judges of Some States has redesignated Some Magistrate Courts as Small Claims Courts. Such Courts are however should be domiciled in the Facilities of the Judiciary and not the Facilities of the Complainant-the Executive. The State is a Party to the Matter just like the Citizen. The Court is an impartial arbiter that adjudicates over disputes between parties and there should be no ex parte communication between the State and the Court over any of these issues. All Communications to the Court must come through the Chief Judge or his representatives. These Principles are subsumed in one of the twin pillars of the Principle of Natural Justice: “Nemo Judex in causa sua”-No Man can be a Judge in his Cause. The Executive that is a Party to COVID-19 Regulations and Issues can not create a Court for itself against its Citizens and we will expect fairness. A Court should be created by Law and guided by Laws, Rules of Court and Practice Directions for the benefit of the State and the Citizen. This is completely unacceptable and it should be corrected. If there were any such Courts, such Courts should be disbanded forthwith.
- You have a right to be treated equally as the State. The State should never be given the premium of Place in Proceedings in court because it is the Citizen that make up the state. In this regard, court sessions must be conducted fairly and without any undue advantage. It should also not be conducted in an atmosphere of fear. These violators are still our Citizens. We are here because they are there!
As Citizens, you must obey all Lawful Orders in the enforcement of the COVID-19 Regulations issued by the Governors or the President.
You have an Obligation not to resist arrest from an arresting authority known to law.
You have an Obligation to wear your face masks when in Public Places or as prescribed by Regulations.
You have an Obligation to provide sanitary facilities around your business premises.
You have an Obligation not to be in a gathering of not more than 20 people, parties, meetings, church, etc.
You have an Obligation to maintain the prescribed physical distance which is at least 3 Metres away from the next person.
You have an Obligation to observed the curfew imposed by the Government.
You must report any suspected case of Coronavirus to NCDC or your State Ministry of Health.
Download the COVID-19 Regulations online, read and understand same. Do not be caught off guard!
This article, however, is my personal opinion.
30th April 2020.
All Rights Reserved.
Douglas Ogbankwa Esq. is the Consultant to the Nigerian Bar Association, Benin Branch -the Lion Bar’s Taskforce on the Monitoring of the Human Rights Components of the COVID-19 Regulations.