RIVER STATE GOVERNMENT PROPOSED DEMOLITION OF PRUDENT HOTEL, ELEME, ETEMETEH HOTEL, ONNE AND AUCTIONING OF CARS OF DEFAULTERS OF DIRECTIVE ON LOCKDOWN IS UNLAWFUL
The Government of Rivers State has amongst others in a Press Release on 9 May 2020 declared thus, “…Prudent Hotel, Alode, Eleme and Etemeteh Hotel, Onne are to be demolished for FLOUTING GOVERNMENT DIRECTIVE on closure of Hotels in the State.” (Emphasis are mine)
Similarly, on 7 May, 2020 Gov. Wike declared thus,
“The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice has been directed to auction all the vehicles that violated the lockdown order.”
It is important to state that a DIRECTIVE is not a law upon which a person can be punished, because under our criminal jurisprudence, a person cannot be punished for an offence not in a written law and the punishment thereof provided for under the law. [section 36(12) CFRN, 1999]
The court in FAITH OKAFOR V GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE & ANOR (2016) LPELR-41066 (CA) succinctly puts it in the following words,
“I find worrisome the contention of the Respondents that the DIRECTIVE of the Governor can be equated to law for which criminal sanctions will lie, and A PERSON TRIED AND CONVICTED FOR THE OFFENCE OF VIOLATING THE DIRECTIVE OF THE GOVERNOR…I FIND IT SHOCKING THAT THE DISOBEDIENCE OF THE DIRECTIVE OF THE GOVERNOR IN THIS REGARD HAS BEEN ELEVATED TO A CRIME FOR WHICH CRIMINAL SANCTIONS ATTACH, AS IN THE CONVICTION OF THE APPELLANT AND THE FINE IMPOSED ON HER.” (Emphasis are mine)
Demolition and auctioning of vehicles is not a punishment under the QUARANTINE ACT. It therefore amounts to abuse of power for Gov. wike to contemplate going beyound the punishment provided for under section 5 of the QUARANTINE ACT (upon which his Executive Orders are largely based) which is N200 fine or 6 months imprisonment or both. The Courts may have no difficulty in declaring such act a nullity should the governor go ahead with his planned demolition and auctioning. [GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE V OJUKWU (1989) 3 NWLR (PT. 60) 325]
Flowing from the above, the Directive for closure of hotels in the State and indeed lockdown of OBIO/AKPOR and PORT HARCOURT CITY LGAs cannot validly entitle the Rivers State Government to demolish the above hotels and indeed auction vehicles of defaulters.
The governor is thus advised to combat COVID 19 within the ambits of the law not only as a governor on oath to uphold the rule of law but as a lawyer, a member of the body of the Legal Practitioner of the highest distinction also married to an astute judge.
The fight against COVID 19 is one every well meaning member of the society should support provided it is done in line with the law and democratic principles. Violation of Human Rights is also one all well meaning members of the society should support.
A Lover of Justice
10 May, 2020.