The Covid-19 known as the Coronavirus which started in Wuhan China around November 2019 has slowly become not just a national issue for China but a global issue as the disease has found itself invading not less than 128 countries of the world with thousands of death is its wake. In the face of this seemingly global pandemic one of the major issues has been the protection of citizens of any country by any and every legal means possible which somehow proved to be a difficult task in Nigeria.
The novel Covid-19 made its first appearance in Nigeria on the 27th February when an Italian returnee was tested positive for the virus and since then, the number of persons tested positive for the virus has rapidly increased. In a bit to safe guard the life of citizens we saw a parade of reckless flaunting of the rule of law and breach of salient provisions of the constitution done by governors of several states and even by the President of Nigeria. This article will briefly discuss what a pandemic is, position of the law in regards to the control of a pandemic, and how it was handled by the various arms of government.
WHAT IS A PANDEMIC
Pandemics are states of disease that sharply increase in populations around the world with infections taking place more or less simultaneously. According to the World Health Organization, a pandemic is declared when a new disease for which people do not have immunity spreads around the world beyond expectations.
Section 2 of the Quarantine Act 1929 states that; “dangerous infectious disease” means cholera, plague, yellow fever, smallpox and typhus, and includes any disease of an infectious or contagious nature which the President may, by notice, declare to be a dangerous infectious disease within the meaning of this Act.”
On 30 January 2020, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the 2019-nCoV outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, following a second meeting of the Emergency Committee convened under the International Health Regulations.
DOES COVID-19 CALL FOR A STATE OF EMERGENCY?
I think it is right to first describe what a state of emergency is and justify whether the outbreak of Covid-19 amounts to a state of emergency. A state of emergency is a situation in which a government is empowered to perform actions or impose policies that it would normally not be permitted to undertake. A government can declare such a state during a natural disaster, civil unrest, armed conflict, medical pandemic or epidemic or other biosecurity risk.
Section 305 (4) of the constitution, states that the President can declare a state of national emergency “when there is a clear and present danger of an actual breakdown of public order and public safety in the Federation or any part thereof requiring extraordinary measures to avert such danger” and we can all agree that the outbreak of Covid-19 has clearly endangered public safety more so as it was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the WHO.
So it is safe to assume that the outbreak of Covid-19 is one of the conditions upon which a state of emergency can be declared in order to protect the lives and citizens of the country.
THE PROVISION OF THE LAW
The relevant law in this regards to declaring a state of emergency is the constitution which is the apex of law the country and in regards to declaring a state of emergency the constitution is clear that only the President has the powers to declare a state of emergency. Section 305 of the constitution provides for the imposition of a state of emergency in the country or any part of it. It went further to state that the a two- third majority of the National Assembly must ratify the executive proclamation within 2 days, if the legislators are in session or in 10 days if they are not.
Another relevant law is the Quarantine Act of 1926 which gives the President the powers to make regulations in cases of an infectious disease of this nature.
From the above it can be deduced that the most appropriate law to be applied in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic is either for the President to declare a state of emergency on affected states or for the President to make regulations subject to the provisions of the Quarantine Act.
HOW DIFFERENT GOVERNORS REACTED TO COVID -19
In wake of the spread of the novel virus and the slow response of the President to take necessary actions to safeguard the lives of its citizens, several state governors took matters into their hands albeit unconstitutionally in a bit to secure their states from the deadly virus.
Perhaps the first governor to do that was Governor Sanwoolu of Lagos state who on 24th March, 2020 declared that “All markets and stores except markets that are selling food items, water, medicines, and medical equipment and other related essential daily life-saving products are hereby directed to close effective from Thursday 26 March, 2020 for seven days at the first instance”.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State also took to his twitter account on the 25th of March 2020 to announce that “All land and sea borders will be closed. Vehicular movements in an out of the state have been banned. In essence no vehicle will leave Rivers State for any other state and no vehicle will be allowed to enter the state”.
Mr. Ganduje of Kano state imposed similar measures in Kano even though there were no yet confirmed cases of Covid-19, where he banned all transport buses from entering the state.
On March 26, Mr Okowa, in a statewide broadcast to Delta residents, said he had ordered the closure of all land routes across the state. Ebonyi, Anambra, Jigawa and Akwa Ibom states also instituted one form of restriction on land transportation or another in their states.
These executive fiats not backed by law was a total abrogation of Section 41 of the constitution which guarantees freedom of movement and Section 45 of the constitution which limits the right to freedom of movement and can only be invoked through legislation.
See the case of Director, SSS v. Olisa Agbakoba 
The Court of Appeal in the celebrated case of Faith Okafor V. Lagos State Government & Anor made it abundantly clear that the directive or order of a governor is not a law and that violation of same cannot attract criminal sanctions.
THE PRESIDENTIAL BLUNDER
After several agitation and social media campaign for President Buhari to address the country and take necessary measures to protect its citizens, the President on March 29, 2020 via a National broadcast ordered a cessation of movement for 2 weeks in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun state in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.
This action of the President though celebrated by many as being the President taking the right action to protect its citizens was highly criticized by some as being unconstitutional and a gross breach of the fundamental rights of persons residing in the mentioned states. One of such persons opposing the action was Inibehe Effiong a lawyer and human right activist who took to his twitter page to condemn the action of the President and threatened to challenge the “Buhari’s unconstitutional lockdown in court”
WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE?
It is important to clearly state that these restrictions made by several state governors though made in the interest of its citizens were illegal, unconstitutional and had no force of law whatsoever. They had rather infringed on the fundamental right to movement and the freedom of assembly and association of its citizens.
The correct action to take was any concerned governor asking the President to declare a state of emergency in his respective state pursuant to Section 305(4) of the constitution or in the alternative make an enabling regulation pursuant to Section 8 of the Quarantine act of 1926 which provides that ;
“If and to the extent that any declaration under section 2 or 3 or this Act has not been made, and to the extent that regulations under section 4 of this Act have not been made by the President, power to make any such declaration and to make such regulations may be exercised in respect of a State, by the Governor thereof as fully as such power may be exercised by the President, and subject to the same conditions and limitations”.
A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
President Buhari signed the Covid-19 Regulations which declared Covid-19 a dangerous infectious disease and legalizes lockdown of activities in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states to enable government contain further spread of the virus. The President relied on powers conferred on him by Section 2, 3, and 4 of the Quarantine Act 1926 and all powers enabling him in that behalf. The said regulation took effect on the March 30, 2020.
Worthy of emulation also is the step taken by different state governors to regularize their earlier unconstitutional acts; Governor Wike of Rivers state released a regulation pursuant to section 2 and 8 of the Quarantine Act, on 28th March, 2020, Governor Sanwoolu issued the Infectious Disease (Emergency Prevention) Regulations made pursuant to the Quarantine Act of 1926 and the State Public Health Law, the Governor of Kaduna state and Ekiti state has also published similar regulations.
The corona virus is still rampaging and killing the lives of people all over the world as such governments are enshrined with the sacred duty of safeguarding the lives of its citizens not just in Nigeria but all over the world. It is advised however that this chaos be not an avenue for government to usurp power and make declarations that are contrary to established law and principles. As much as we want to see the end of Covid-19 pandemic, actions should be taken within the ambit of the law. The constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria is supreme and any action that is inconsistent to the provisions of the constitution is null and void to the extent of its inconsistencies.
Blessing Augustine is a Lagos based Lawyer.
 The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended
 Quarantine Act Cap. 384 L.F.N. 1990 Act Cap. Q2 L.F.N. 2004
 (1999) 3 NWLR (Pt. 595) 314.
 (2016) LPELR-41066 (CA)
 Section 41 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended