If not yes, what is?
So many objections may be made to everything, that nothing can overcome them but the necessity of doing something – Samuel Johnson.
My Lords, my kind heart goes out to the millions of people who have been compelled to adopt a new lifestyle behind closed doors and boring monotonous daily activities. My heart also goes out to our health officials who are dashing out to the wild and embracing a life-threatening habit to save us all from the pandemic despite our crippling health facilities. Lastly, my heart goes out to all those who have hastily concluded that our security operatives can not be trusted to achieve anything civil. I wish I understood their fear and speculations better, but right before us is the certainty of a greater pandemic if we don’t act now. Indeed, the beat has changed, so also must our dance steps take a new style.
My Lords, the first evidence before you is the IMF’s report that the informal sector contributes about 65 percent to Nigeria’s GDP. What this means is that the huge contribution to GDP is from more than half of the population, like the food sellers and artisans, who sustain themselves on a daily income. Just telling this set of people to stay at home without more will naturally have no meaning to them. Admitted, this is a huge dent in leadership, but today’s focus is not the failure of the government but why, in the unfortunate circumstances we find ourselves, we should temporarily adopt stricter measures to ensure that people are not spreading the virus and meeting their end with believing they are out there making ends meet.
Furthermore, my Lords, the benefit of having security operatives enforce the stay-at-home order transcends the one in ten million probability of violation of a citizen’s right. There is no doubt that the more people disobey the stay-at-home order, the harder and longer it will be for us to resume our daily lifestyle. The truth is, Nigeria does not just terribly lag in adequate health service to cater for a full-blown pandemic, it also lacks an adequate database to track millions of people who will be infected if the stay-at-home order is not enforced. My lords, I understand that we all want to get back to our usual lifestyle, and don’t want the big brothers in uniform watching over us. But if we don’t ensure an absolute compliance by allowing security operatives enforce the order we may not, at the end of everything, be around to resume our cherished jobs.
My Lords, if we all have to withdraw from taking a decision after sensing some probabilities, we would almost certainly get nothing done.Take for example, even after the Lagos State government stated that a gathering of more than twenty people was no longer permitted, we still witnessed some religious institutions and social gatherings flouting the order. Notable among this was the house party organised by popular Yoruba Actress, Funke Akindele. What this tells us is that leaving Nigerians to totally observe the stay-at-home order is like trusting a cat with a tiger hoping that because they are both from the Felidae family, the cat will live till morning to recount how cold the night was.
My Lords, the opposing counsel may argue that allowing security operatives enforce the stay-at-home order has a slight probability of causing an abuse of citizens’ rights, thereby we should go against it. I would have loved to agree with him, but here is the problem – Opposing counsel’s mind is too concentrated on the probable treatment of those caught violating the order, not on the benefit of having security operatives ensure that there is no violation in the first place. An unfounded fear based on mere speculation towards the disposition of our security operatives who themselves would be risking their lives to enforce the order.
Finally, my lords, if there are three things that remain undisputed in this courtroom, they are the fact that; first, there are Orders made for the purpose of containing this pandemic. Second is that these Orders need to be obeyed, but would not enforce themselves if they are not enforced. Third is that regardless of the benefit, humans would always find it burdensome to abide by a change that contradicts their daily lifestyle, hence making disobeying an order on paper a tempting desire for all. We all know we cannot afford to confront the pandemic with our health system which is already laying to rest in the Intensive Care Unit, hence we must do everything humanly possible to ensure people abide by the laws in place.
I hope to anchor here, but I have to remind you this – When opposing counsel presents you with wild speculations that will not come to pass with proper planning, intellectually distant yourself from such and wash his arguments off your hands like you have always washed off the virus, because as noble as his stance may sound, what it ensures is the certainty of wide spread pandemic. So, if your lordship pleases, unwrap your blanket, plug in your headset, and kindly tell opposing Counsel to turn off the light on his way out.
NOT AT ALL
If it sounds like a sheep but looks like a lion, it is probably a lion – Nicholas Eames.
My Lords, it has become a matter of necessity that must be decided with utmost shrewdness, whether security operatives be employed to enforce the stay-at-home orders. My stance is crystal-clear: Force must not, and in fact, need not be used at all.
First, the application of force is a measure that may easily be employed beyond measure, towards grave consequences. Fire, they say, is a good servant but a bad master; and as popular experiences in our country will show, arms are fire in the hands of uniformed men, who at times, make themselves docile servants to their own instruments, towards perpetrating havoc on the same society they were engaged to protect. Need I remind you of the famous June 2006 Apo killings that led to the extra-judicial killing of six innocent Nigerians by policemen or of the countless instances of civilian deaths by mistake. In the same way, by deploying security operatives to enforce the stay-at-home orders we would be closing our ears to history’s witty remarks; we would be putting public safety in jeopardy.
Next, security operatives should not be employed to enforce the stay-at-home orders because doing so will open a floodgate of human rights violations, perhaps too grievous and cumbersome for us to handle. Section 35 of the 1999 constitution provides for the right to the dignity of the human person whose purport is to guarantee the protection of all persons from torture and inhuman treatment. Your Learned Lordships, nothing in the exceptions provided under subsection (2) of this section permits any security operative to torture or treat inhumanly any citizen of this country for the reason that they have not complied with an executive order in a time of emergency; neither does Section 45 which makes public health a ground for limitation of rights include right to dignity as one of the rights that may be limited on this ground. It is therefore clear to me, and to this court, that the intent of the letters of the law is that the right to personal dignity of all Nigerians be protected even when the entire country is thrust into a complete lockdown on the ground of a disease outbreak, but how do we guarantee our rights when even our lives are not safe in the hands of “army kogberegbe”?
My opponent will be quick to argue that I have hinged my arguments on the uncertain assumptions that security operatives may turn brutal to the prejudice of the safety of citizens and the violation of rights. However, reneging on a decision on the slightest assumption of an impeding risk is wisdom, not cowardice.
Furthermore, my Lords, the situation of things in the country does not in the slightest bit call for the application of force. Yes, I am in my right senses as I argue this cause and I do bear in mind that the Presidency has declared COVID-19 a dangerous disease that requires collaborative efforts to combat, but, my Lords, the collaboration required of poor citizens need not be in form of complete isolation from life outside home. Every adult knows the matter at stake and with the gravity of the situation can be trusted to protect themselves and their households from the infection following simple healthy lifestyle tips adopted by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Finally, my Lords, imagine that we came to this honourable court today, not with gowns and wigs or witty arguments. Imagine we had rather come with arms and ammunitions to drive home our points and settled that whoever’s martial skills surpass the other’s be declared winner, this court would not be a safe ground and your seat would be empty! Deploying security operatives to enforce stay-at-home is no more different from the situation we might have alternatively created in this courtroom by the employment of force. And, for ages, reason has always been a better servant and master than force, or fire if you please.