The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, contrary to a directive by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Tuesday ordered police commands not to exempt anybody, including workers on essential duties, when enforcing the ban on interstate movements and the nationwide curfew.
The IG gave the directive to the zonal assistant-inspectors general of police and state commissioners of police during a virtual conference on Tuesday.
The President had, in his first COVID-19 address to the nation on March 29, ordered a lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states.
Buhari, however, exempted health workers, journalists as well as the staff of telecommunication companies from the lockdown.
In his second COVID-19 on April 13, when he extended the lockdown in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states, the President also emphasised that workers on essential duties were exempted from the lockdown.
Commenting on harassment by security agencies, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on March 30 said journalists needed only their identity cards to move around during the lockdown.
On April 27, when he ordered a ban on interstate movements and imposed an 8pm to 6am curfew on the nation, the President repeated that workers on essential duties were exempted.
The PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, while announcing the extension of interstate lockdown and the nationwide curfew at the task force press conference on Monday, said exemptions granted by the President in the first phase would subsist.
But a source at the IG’s conference with police commissioners on Tuesday said Adamu had directed policemen not to allow any exemption.
The source stated, “For your information, a curfew is a curfew. After 8pm, there will be no movement by anybody, including journalists and doctors as well as other health workers.
“The directive we have received from the IG is that as from 8pm, the question of being on essential services does not arise.”
Be strict, IG tells police officers
The Force spokesman, Frank Mba, in a statement on Tuesday, confirmed that the IG at the virtual conference with top police officers ordered strict enforcement of the curfew and interstate movement restriction nationwide.
Mba explained that the virtual conference availed the police leadership the opportunity to assess the security situation in the country, review operational strategies and take decisive measures aimed at evolving customized security solutions to cope with crime trends and other security challenges relating to the pandemic.
He said, “The Inspector-General of Police has ordered strict enforcement of the national curfew and interstate movement restriction orders emplaced by the Federal Government as part of measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
“The IG gave this directive to the zonal assistant-inspectors general of police and state commissioners of police during a virtual conference held on Tuesday.”
The Executive Secretary of the Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria, Feyi Smith, in an interview with one of our TEAM noted that the IG’s directive could not override the President’s directive exempting the essential workers.
He stated that it would be ridiculous for the IG to make the order.
He said, “I want to believe that given the directive of the President that all essential services are exempted, there is no way the IG’s order can override that of the President. I want to believe that there was a miscommunication along the line and I want to believe that he could not have said so.
“I still believe that the President’s directives stand until he says otherwise or we have a clarification from the spokesman of the President. It will be ridiculous that anybody will say such a thing.”
The Nigerian Medical Association and the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives cautioned Adamu over his directive on workers on essential duties.
IG’s directive can’t supersede Buhari’s order – NMA
The President of the NMA, Dr Francis Faduyile, stated that those on the essential services, especially health care workers, should remain exempted from enforcement.
Faduyile, in an interview with The PUNCH, noted that the President is the Commander-in-Chief, adding that his directive should supersede that of the IGP.
He said, “I don’t think he (IG) has a right to give a counter-directive. Doctors are recalled from home to do emergencies and they have to return home. They can be recalled at any time when there is an emergency and they have to move.
“For the medical professions, I know that the restriction does not include us because it can be his (IG) sister, brother, son, wife, father or mother in that distress, and you need that medical professional to come and attend to him or her.
“I know that there is nobody who can say there is a restriction that would affect medical professionals. Even in war, medical professionals are allowed to move around to help, wherever one finds oneself. I don’t think that directive can be fixed.”
Adamu’s order counterproductive – Nurses
Similarly, the President, NANNM, Abdulrafiu Adeniji, told one of our correspondents that the Chairman of the PTF during the task force press briefing on Tuesday gave allowances for those on essential duties.
Adeniji said, “I think it’s contradictory. On the issue of no exemption for essential services, what apparently that may mean is that all the essential services should not work again.
“Otherwise, what the PTF Chairman, Boss Mustapha, said this evening in their briefing is that all the people who are on essential services with their adequate identity cards will assuage the efforts of the police in trying to curtail undue movements.
“But it would be counterproductive if people that are expected to be given due regard are not being given such. Otherwise, the smooth running of health care services will cease as the hospital runs 24 hours and there could be an emergency at any point in time.”
IG’s directive to stop essential workers’ movement by 8pm faulty – NBA
Also, the Nigerian Bar Association faulted the directive by the IG to stop all movements by 8pm in disregard of privilege given to essential workers to operate at that time.
Speaking through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun, the NBA said the IG lacked the power to contradict a presidential directive excluding essential workers from the movement restrictions.
Edun told The FASTLOADED TEAM that the IGP should rather be more concerned about the enforcement of interstate restrictions which he said were often beached in “obvious disregard of the presidential directive”.
He said, “The directive of the President regarding restriction of movement does not apply to persons designated to be on the essential service list.
“I don’t think the IGP has the authority to contradict the President on a clear directive. Regarding curfew, it is not all the states in the federation that curfew has been declared.”
Essential services are critical – TMG chair
Also, the Chairman of the Transition Monitoring Group, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said the IG did not have power to override the President
“Essential services are critical and that is why it’s important for the government to be clear on who should be exempted. It will be unreasonable for him not to obey the directives. It’s important for the Presidency to call him to order,” she said
A former President, Campaign for the Defence of Human Rights, Malachy Ugwummadu, on his part, said, “I am neither convinced nor persuaded to believe that this particular IG is unaware of what “essential duties” mean.
The Executive Director, Centre for Public Accountability, Femi Lawson, said the IG made an error of generalisation.
He stated, “I heard the statement and what quickly came to mind is that even in the worst of circumstances and war times, essential services providers are always exempted from restriction of movement.”
Police cannot override rights of essential workers – Falana
A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, said a police signal could not override the rights of doctors, nurses, fire service officials, journalists and other essential workers.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria warned that police commissioners must not subject Nigerians to unwarranted harassment over the directive by the IG.
He said, “The Nigeria Police Force is bound by the COVID-19 regulations made pursuant to the Quarantine Act by the President. By this directive the IG has charged the commissioners of police to enforce the said regulations. The directive cannot contradict the regulations made by the President and state governors.
“A police signal cannot override the rights of doctors, nurses, fire service officials, journalists and workers who provide essential services to be on duty. In any case, directives contained in police signals must be in strict conformity with the regulations and exceptions stipulated by the President. We are not in a police state. Therefore, police commissioners should not subject Nigerians to unwarranted harassment”
Adamu’s directive sad – NUJ
The Nigeria Union of Journalists National President, Chris Isiguzo, in an interview with our TEAM, said, “It’s sad to hear that our right to free movement as essential workers has been restricted. I don’t want to believe that such a statement was actually issued by the police top brass.
“I know very well that even in a war situation, those on essential duties especially health workers and journalists enjoy free movement.”