Director General of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Dr Salihu Lukman has hailed President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to declare a state of emergency in Lagos and Ogun states as well as the federal capital territory (FCT) as part of measures to contain the spread of the Covid 19 infectious disease.
Lukman insisted that the decision by the President was borne out of the urgent need to ensure the wellbeing of the citizenry against the threat posed by COVID 19 in line with international best practices.
In a statement Monday in Abuja, he blasted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Ebun-olu Adegboruwa, who declared that the measures announced by the President was illegal and unconstitutional.
According to him: “Clearly, these responses completely ignore the gravity of the challenges and imagine that the problems can be reduced to politics and legal arguments. They all miss the point, very conveniently, that the world, including Nigeria, is fighting a war that is a threat to human life in a manner that the world has never experienced before.
“It is an unconventional challenge such that the enemy, Covid-19, doesn’t respect politics, legality or recurse to any form of interest. It was in fact in recognition of this that the President declared that we are all as individuals the ‘greatest weapon to fight’ the war.
“After all the hue and cry, prior to the President’s broadcast, lamenting the slow responses from government in taking measures to protect citizens against the spread of the virus in the country, one would have expect some attempt to direct attention in the country to strengthen the capacity of the government to succeed in containing the spread of the virus.
“Or could PDP be arguing that there are other more effective measures to contain the spread of the virus, which the President has failed to take? Or could Mr. Adegboruwa be implying that there are legal provisions that could be invoked that would ensure containment of the spread of the virus while at the same time respecting the rights of citizens to move freely?
“Why should we, as Nigerians, be so unfair to ourselves and our leaders to the extent that it would appear we have lost sight of the fact that to be rational and logical, is first and foremost to ensure the protection of life. Once human life is at risk, we must take every step required to safeguard human life.
“Coincidentally, this was the point amplified by Lee Hsien Loong, the Sigaporean Prime Minister, on the same day of President Buhari’s broadcast, while featuring on CNN Global Public Square hosted by Fareed Zakaria.
“With Singapore today recognised as one of the successful countries to have controlled Covid-19, Mr. Loong stressed the point: “The key thing is that people must understand what we are facing and must support what we are doing and cooperate with us and have confidence in the government and we put lots of efforts in explaining to them what is happening, speaking to them and I have done it a few times directly on television.
“So people know that we are level and we tell it straight, we are transparent. If there is bad news, we tell you, if there are things which needs to be done, we also tell you. I think that we have to maintain that trust because if people don’t trust you, even if they have the right measures, it’s going to be hard to get it implemented.
“The position of Mr. Loong underlines our problem in Nigeria, which is that we don’t trust our government and our leaders. With almost daily Ministerial briefing by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and his team, the Sunday, March 29 speech by the President should have given Nigerians the needed confidence to strengthen their belief about the commitment of government to fight and contain Covid-19. Instead, what we have is distrust and commitment to undermine initiatives of government.
“This would appear to be setting us up for failure in a way that will cost the lives of many citizens, which may include some of us that may unfortunately become infected by Covid-19.
“We deceive ourselves to imagine that some of us are free from the virus, on account of which we could be tempted to politicise the problem or indulge in legal arguments. Besides, one will be tempted to ask what legal process did we invoke either as pro-democracy activists or as unionists when we declared sit-at-home under Campaign for Democracy (CD) and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in 1993, 2000 and in all the cases of our protest campaigns against the military and increases in petroleum prices?
“If the law gives us the right to protest, did we really follow the processes provided under the law to prosecute all our sit-at-home campaigns? Mr. Adegboruwa, being an active participant and leader in some of those campaigns may want to humbly reflect on some of those realities and candidly reassess his position about the so-called legal requirement for restriction of movement in Abuja, Lagos and Abeokuta.”