Commercial Law

Lagos AG, BoB member, Uthman differ on enforcement of Covid-19 regulations

Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo SAN, and Lagos lawyer, and member, Body of Benchers, Mr Kunle Uthman have disagreed on the Covid-19 enforcement rules, particularly as it relates to social distancing in Lagos State.

Mr Uthman, irked by the communal spread of virus through lack of discipline in social distancing had on January 13, 2020, petitioned the Attorney General in what he termed a ‘save our soul’ letter.

The letter reads: “Apparently day-by-day, Lagos State is degenerating to a state of lawlessness and disregard for the sanctity of human lives. Competitive killings by cultists (14 deaths recorded in Ikorodu Town alone within 3days), armed robbery attacks; and numerous sudden deaths through COVID-19 pandemic are ravaging the State *(it was reported that 50% of Lagos State civil servants are already infected)* like bush fire;

Lagos State has earned, since April 2020 and consistently maintained the unenviable status of the State with the highest number of infected persons and deaths through COVID-19 in the Federal Republic of Nigeria;

Despite this scary and fearful state of affairs, it is still “business-as-usual” and there isn’t any decipherable commitment by the LASG to checkmate and reduce this historical disaster;

One classical case of failure of government to be humane and proactive is the funeral outing party of Alhaji Nelson held with grandiose fanfare without social distancing and failure to enforce the wearing of face masks, at the prestigious Eko Club Arcade Hall, Surulere that has the capacity in excess of 2,500 persons at a rental rate in excess of more than N1.6m per event;

The referenced event shows the extent to which the LASG has failed in enforcement of the COVID-19 pandemic protocols, considering the fact that this event was held in Surulere and not a remote part of the State; 

It is a fact that the number of persons published as victims of this pandemic in Lagos State have been grossly underestimated and underreported;

As it is, day-by-day, these large parties are being organised and attended by even highly placed LASG officials;

Is there an effective and efficient government in Lagos State? 

Recall that His Excellency, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Hon. Commissioner of Health of Lagos State were infected with COVID-19 and went into isolation:

What is the way forward if the LASG is unable (through its numerous agencies) to enforce the protocols regarding the number of persons to attend parties? 

Please consider banning parties or whosoever must hold parties (if at all) must necessarily inform and obtain clearance from relevant government agencies. 

Prosecution should necessarily be the concomitant consequence of a  breach, including psychiatric evaluation of suicidal persons, who do not desire to die alone by hosting this appallingly lavish parties, but take along “irresponsible deviant persons” as themselves in the suicide mission. 

This is “Save Our Soul” –  SOS. “A stitch in time saves nine”. 

Reacting to Uthman’s letter, Mr Onigbanjo the following day, January 14, 2020 in reply disagreed, saying “it is not business as usual” in Lagos State.

He said:”Since the first index patient was confirmed on February 27, 2020, Lagos State has led from the front in tackling the pandemic. Even before the fist index patient was confirmed, the state government had set up an incident command system with the governor appointed the incident commander. It was Lagos State that first introduced reduced working hours for all sectors of the economy in the state; directed all its staff between levels 1-14 should work from home; closed all bars, gyms, lounges, and cinemas; restricted restaurants to offering take-out services and closed worship centers”.

Onigbanjo explained further that Lagos government was the first in Nigeria to build an isolation center, a 600 bed space facility exclusively for Covid-19 patients. “The state led and still leads the nation in administering Covid-19 tests. As at date, we are testing 3000 a day from 60 public and 20 private sample collection centers, spread across 57 local government and Central Public Health Laboratories in the state”.

The Attorney General maintained that the governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, as far back as March 27, 2020 promulgated into law, the state covid-19 regulations, the first state to do so in Nigeria. The efforts of the government, according to him, yielded positive results as thousands of people were successfully treated and discharged from the state’s isolation centers and home based care till date.

He further explained that despite the fact that Mr Sanwo-Olu fell victim of the dreaded virus, he still managed to address a press conference when the second wave started on February 18, 2020, where he again, shut down night clubs, lounges, concerts and bars. “The number of people who could attend social functions/restaurants was reduced, while events centers were mandated to get clearance from Lagos State Safety Commission before going on with any event”, he stated.

Onigbanjo further explained that the state launched an oxygen gas plant installed at the Yaba Isolation Center on January 8, 2021. The faculty has the capacity to produce 60 large cylinders of high grade medical oxygen per day. “The state is planning three more plants”, he said further.

On the issue of regulations rules enforcement, he said that the state so far has arrested 556 people for breaching regulations, prosecuted and convicted 502 till date. Furthermore, 32 clubs and events centers have been shut, including Eko club’s event hall which was shut on January 12, 2021. Furthermore, prosecutors have been mandated to request from Magistrates, orders that everyone arrested for breaching covid-19 rules must undergo compulsory tests to ascertain their status, in addition to any sentence the magistrate may deem fit. He said covid-19 tests are free at the state tests and sample centres.

“The state government is currently discussing with vaccine manufacturers with a view to making vaccines available to Lagosians”, he said further.

“To therefore state that there isn’t any decipherable commitment  by the state government is to blatantly overlook the numerous initiatives and steps taken by the state government to protect lives and property, he said, while maintaining that the state will continue to monitor the situation of things, it will also intensify efforts on awareness for Lagosians to remain cautious in these unusual times.

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