By Olubayo Durojaye
The right to Life has provided and entrenched under section 33 of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and Article 3 and 4 of African Charter on Human and People’s Rights is not sacrosanct there are exceptions to right to life. But I really wonder whether the present precarious situation being experienced by Nigerians can be regarded as a legal and justified exception t right to life.
As it stands can we safely say that the extended order by the President for a further 14days total lockdown made on the 13th day of April will still be regarded as protecting Nigerians or as frustrating Nigerians and taking their right to life away.
It is safely arguable that the lock down order of the President, President Muhammadu Buhari first made on the 29th of March was made in order to help Nigerians realize their right to life by protecting them from being infected by Corona Virus (COVID 19). Just like the President said in his broadcast on the 13th April, 2020 ‘this is not a joke, it’s a matter of life and death’ the President said further “fellow Nigerians, follow the instructions on social distancing. The irresponsibility of the few can lead to the death of the many. Your freedom ends where other people right begin.
Invariably the lockdown order is made for the greater good of the greatest number protecting lives and containing the spread of the virus COVID-19.
Notwithstanding the efforts of the government at all levels to contain the deadly corona virus, it’s obvious that many people are no more enjoying that statutory protection because they are dying of hunger.
The economic impact that the first 14 days’ lockdown order has had on millions of Nigerians is regrettably unforgettable. There are millions of Nigerians who rely on daily wages, particularly in the three major cities where the lockdown order affected most. The lockdown order is really having it clangs on many Nigerians, the lockdown has left many without money, food, material things such that will sustain them for twenty-four (24) hours talk less of 14 days. It is clear that the extension of the lockdown order is invariably an extension of hardship on Nigerians which may definitely lead to hunger deaths, social and civil unrest as we have seen in parts of Lagos and Ogun State.
Right to life can never be realized without right to having a source of living or livelihood. Right to life is useless where there is no guaranteed means by which a person will keep living while the lockdown keeps extending.
Right to life simply means that everyone has a right to life and nobody’s life can be unjustifiably or unlawfully taken.
In the present circumstance, the President has exercised his power to protect Nigerians under the Quarantine act 1926, section 2,3 and 4 to help Nigerian realize their right to life but the question remains can Nigerian Citizens keep their life’s without having opportunity to do what will help them live. We must note that there is difference between existence and living.
Right to life is a fundamental human right that can never be realized without having a right to live. Chapter (IV) of the 1999 Constitution provides for right to life in section 33 but the whole of chapter (II) of the 1999 Constitution from Sections 13, 14, 16 and 17 etc., are the sections upon which section 33 rides.
Chapter (II) of the 1999 Constitution provides for fundamental Objectives and Directive Principle of State Policy. Fundamental right in this case cannot be without a functional operation of fundamental objectives and directive principle of State Policy.
What is right to life when there is no food or right to get food. People exist by right to life but people live by having what it takes to sustain that right to life.
Right to life includes right to live with dignity but what is dignifying about a life that is not sustainable.
Right to life and right to live are non-justiciable and justiciable right that are inseparable. They are Siamese twin. The president is caught up in a dilemma of having to carry out his responsibility and oath of office as envisage by Sections 13, 14, 16 and 17.
There is no point having a right to life and having no means by which same life is dignified and sustained. By implications there is no point protecting Nigerians from COVID-19 and at the same time exposing them to a high degree of situation that can also lead to their death which is hunger.
The extended jurisprudence of right to life is right to live, no man has a life except he has a means to sustain the life, this has again brought us to the injusticiability of Chapter (II) of the 1999 Constitution, why should we have Chapter (II) injusticiable and Chapter (IV) pretends to protect the humanity in Nigerians.
I believe the Federal Government and all authorities concerned will take a second look at how to manage protecting citizens from COVID -19 and preserving citizens from dying of hunger.
In Abraham Maslow theory in respect of hierarchy of needs, food is first and food is king.
We cannot continue to keep people from going to work to earn a living in order to ensure a life, rather we will record the death of more citizens from hunger than from COVID-19.
We must work hard to stop (HUNGER – 2020) VIRUS as much as we want to stop COVID – 19 VIRUS.
On this, I do not envy Mr. President, I sympathize with the President and the entire Federal Cabinet and Executive Council, I believe soon we will have an ending and permanent solution to the quagmire in which we found ourselves.
Olubayo Durojaye is the Lead Partner at Officium Legis (Legal Practitioners & Consultants), he offers legal advice on several legal issues, a social commentator, writer and consultant. Contacts 07030244279, 08180244279.