A Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos State, presided over by Justice Mohammed Idris, has declared as unlawful the restriction of citizens’ movement during the monthly Lagos environmental sanitation exercise.
The policy of the Lagos State Government restricts citizens to their homes for three hours between 7 a.m and 10 a.m every last Saturday of the month.
The court held that there is no law in force in Lagos State by which any citizen could be kept indoors, compulsorily. It also added that there is no regulation in force currently in Lagos State which authorises the restriction of movement of citizens, on the last Saturdays of the month, for the purpose of observing environmental sanitation.
The court found that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria grants freedom of movement to every citizen, and such freedom cannot be taken away by executive proclamation, in the absence of any law to that effect.
He therefore voided the power of the Lagos State Government and its agent to arrest any citizen found moving between 7am and 10am on the last Saturday of every month when the environmental sanitation exercise is observed.
Justice Idris took arguments in respect of the suit filed by human rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, against the Inspector-General of Police and the Lagos State Government, to challenge the restriction of human movements on the last Saturday of every month, for the purpose of observing environmental sanitation.
Adegboruwa led Mr Gbenga Awoseye to argue the case himself.
In the suit, Adegboruwa contended that there is no law in force in Lagos State restricting movement of persons, for the purpose of observing environmental sanitation.
He argued that section 39 of the Environmental Sanitation Law 2000, of Lagos State, which the respondents claimed to empower the Commissioner for the Environment, to make regulations, cannot be the basis for restricting human movement on Saturdays, as no regulation in force has indeed been made for that purpose.
He challenged the Lagos State Government to produce such regulation before the court.
He then urged the court to hold that even if there is such regulation in force, it cannot be enforced on roads that are designated as federal highways under the Highways Act, such as the 3rd Mainland Bridge where he was arrested by the police and LASTMA officials.
Lagos State Government was represented in court by Mr Jonathan Ogunsanya, chief state counsel from the Ministry of Justice.
Mr Ogunsaya, in his response, argued that section 41 of the 1999 Constitution permits government to make laws that may derogate from the right to freedom of movement and that the Environmental Sanitation Law of Lagos State, 2000, is an example of such derogation.
He argued further that the practice of keeping people at home for three hours only on the last Saturdays of the month is meant to keep society and environment clean and safe. Therefore, he said that there are classified exceptions to the restriction, including emergencies and ambulance services and those on essential services.
After the judgment, Adegboruewa, said: “I am committed to the struggle to eradicate all forms of arbitrariness and impunity from our society.”