Law News
Lagos Environmental Sanitation Law: What the constitution says

SINCE the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Law came into effect in year 2000, citizens are expected to clean their environment onlast Saturday of the month. For three hours, 7-10am that the exercise last, Human and vehicular movements are restricted except those on essential duties.

However, those who insist on breaching the movement restriction order, always find themselves on the wrong side of the law. They are usually arrested by men of the Environmental Sanitation task force and summarily tried in special court named the “Special-Offences Court” established to try such offenders. These are sanitation policemen, who assist regular policemen to enforce the environmental laws.

Enforcing environmental laws

No doubt, unlike Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a rights activist, many persons arrested and arraigned in the Special-Offences Court for violating the state’s Environmental Sanitation Law, find themselves in prison, especially when they cannot bail themselves.

Like a common criminal, these offenders are hurriedly herded into waiting blackmaria where their ilks are kept.

However, Sections 41 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that: “Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereto or exit therefrom.” Also, Section 35 of the same constitution stipulates that: “Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty….”

Armed with these inalienable provisions of the constitution, Adegboruwa had instituted a suit before a Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, wherein he prayed the court for a declaration that the monthly sanitation exercise is illegal and obnoxious.

Explaining why he instituted the suit, Adegboruwa said his decision was sequel to his arrest on June 29, 2013 by security operatives while he was on his way to Channels Television to honour an invitation to feature on a live programme tagged “Sunrise.” He contended that the restriction of movement that comes with the sanitation on every last Saturday of the month runs contrary to the provisions of the above Sections of the Constitution.

The lawyer equally argued that such restriction of movement violates Article XII of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

Adegboruwa’s position on the restriction of movement during the Environmental Sanitation was upheld by Justice Mohammed Idris who nullified the monthly environmental sanitation policy of the Lagos State government. According to the judge, there is no law in force in Lagos State by which any citizen could be kept indoors compulsorily and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria grants freedom of movement to every citizen.

Justice Idris held that such freedom cannot be taken away by executive proclamation, in the absence of any law to that effect.

The Lagos State Government, had in 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.

It further argued that the practice of keeping people at home for three hours only on the last Saturdays of the month was meant to keep society and environment clean and safe, adding that there were classified exceptions to the restriction, including emergencies and ambulance services and those on essential services.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State government has indicated its intention to appeal the judgment.

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