Law News
Sanitation: Court grants Lagos application to restrict movement

A Federal High Court in Lagos has suspended the enforcement of a judgment which stopped the Lagos State Government from imposing movement restriction on citizens during the monthly sanitation exercise in the state.

By implication, anyone found moving between 7am and 10am on the last Saturday of the month,  either on the state or federal roads in Lagos, while the sanitation exercise is being observed, would be liable to arrest.

The fresh order, made by Justice Mohammed Idris on Friday, put on hold the enforcement of a March 16, 2015 judgment nullifying the power of Lagos State and its agents to arrest anyone found moving during the sanitation exercise.

According to the judge, the March 16 judgment would not be enforced until the outcome of the appeal filed by Lagos State challenging the judgment.

Idris, however, ordered the state to compile records of proceedings within 90 days otherwise the stay of execution would be voided.

The Lagos State Government, through its Solicitor-General, Mr. Lawal Pedro (SAN), had filed an application for a stay of execution, urging Idris to summarily suspend the enforcement of his judgment.

Idris had, on March 16,  declared the movement restriction policy as illegal and a violation of sections 35 and 41 of the Constitution, which preserve the citizens’ right to personal liberty and freedom of movement.

Though, the judge did not overrule the sanitation exercise, he held that Lagos State and its agents lacked the legal backing to arrest or detain any citizen found moving during the exercise as there was currently no law to that effect.

“I have no doubt that the restrictions imposed on the movement of persons and sanctions meted out to those who breach them are clearly unsupportable in law and unjustified.

“I must state loud and clear that the environmental sanitation exercise is not in itself unlawful, but what is unlawful and unconstitutional is the restriction imposed by the respondents during the exercise,” Idris had held.

But Pedro, in a further affidavit, insisted that the judge did not consider or exhaust all the relevant provisions of the law before arriving at his judgment.

“We were able to show exceptional circumstances in our further affidavit; we exhibited a law, which, I must concede, was not brought to the attention of the court; the court would have been more comfortable while arriving at its judgment, if that law was brought before my Lord,” Pedro said on Thursday.

He made reference to and read Section 28 (1) and (2) of the amended Environmental Sanitation Edict of 1987, which empowered the police, a sanitary officer or a member of the then Military Task Force to arrest without a warrant, any person “found roaming about without lawful excuse within such specific period,” when any normal communal or other civic obligation directed by either the state or Federal Government was supposed to be observed.

Pedro further likened the movement restriction policy to what obtains during the general elections period, saying though he was not aware of any specific law that said movement must be frozen during elections, peculiar circumstances necessitated the policy.

In opposition, the respondent/applicant, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, had asked the court to refuse the application for stay of judgment execution, saying Lagos State had a penchant for disregarding court judgments.

He said the state had been known for undermining the authority of the court and accused the state of deliberately delaying hearing in its own appeal against Idris’ judgment.

But one Quduz Lawal, deponent to Lagos State’s further affidavit, debunked the claim, saying, “I specifically deny the allegation of the respondent that it is the trade mark of the 3rd-6th respondents/applicants to always disregard judgment of courts.

“There has been no environmental sanitation exercise in Lagos State since the judgment of this court was delivered on 16th March, 2015.

“I also deny that the applicant intend to delay the hearing of the appeal against the judgment of this honourable court.”

Idris ruled in favour of the application for stay of execution.

Adegboruwa had obtained the court judgment after arguing that the movement restriction policy in the name of sanitation was “an illegal and an obnoxious” policy.

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