The president of the federation, Muhammadu Buhari, signed the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021 policy, citing powers conferred to the Presidency, by Section 4 of the Quarantine Act, Cap. Q2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2010, “…and in consideration of the urgent need to protect the health and well-being of Nigerians in the face of the widespread and rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria.”
The law, which comes in 5 parts, includes: Part 1 (Restrictions on Gatherings), Part 2 (Operations of Public Places), Part 3 (Mandatory Compliance with Treatment Protocyols), Part 4 (Offences and Penalties), Part 5 (Enforcement and Application), and Part 6 (Interpretation and Citation).
Part 1, 2, 3, constitute most of the laid-down measures imposed by the government to curtail the spread. Part 4 however constitute grave penalties for violators of the measures. Divided into subsections, the first prescribes that “Any person who contravenes the provisions of these regulations commits an offence.” The second part states that “Any person who, without reasonable cause, contravenes a direction given under Parts 1 and 2 of these regulations commits an offence.” The last part states that “An offence under these regulations is punishable, on summary conviction, by a fine or a term of six months’ imprisonment or both in accordance with Section 5 of the Quarantine Act.
Under Part 5, personnel of the Nigerian Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Federal Road Safety Corps, and other constituted authorities are directed to enforce the provisions of these regulations. It prescribes that “any officer of the enforcement agencies who fails, neglects, or refuses to enforce the provisions of these regulations shall be subject to disciplinary action.
One certain thing the prescription of jail term for COVID-19 violators will do is that it will help curtail the recklessness exhibited by many in the campaign against the spread of the deadly coronavirus. It will further give the general public a sense of sobriety as they go about their daily activities.
In public and social settings, there is a general disregard for measures put in place to curb the potential spread of this deadly virus. Nigerians as a people are known for doubting almost anything even when the truth stares them in the face. The level of distrust and the general doubts for the presence of COVID-19 gained ground when misrepresentations pervaded the media space that the government was only using the idea that there was COVID-19 in Nigeria to enrich their pockets. Even when some Nigerians have seen that it is as real as it can get, others are still adamant.
It is perhaps noteworthy that it became imperative to impose this measure as the disregard for COVID-19 protocols surges. The negligence became more imminent in the face of the looming second wave. Very few people seem to care. In the marketplace, churches, and other public gathering, one finds people going about without a facemask or nose cover. Handshakes and hugs are commonplace. There is little or no social distancing even in public buses. To make it even worse, at the airports there were reported cases of travelers forging fake COVID-19 results. The situation is even more obvious at the NIMC centers where people dismiss the presence of COVID-19 with a wave of the hand. Entertainers in the music industry are further not helping matters as there are reported cases of a few of them hosting and attending shows within and outside the country: all of these in the middle of a pandemic that has ravaged Europe, America, and some parts of Africa.
Can one forget the orgy in Kaduna which brought about the demolition of Asher Hotel? As government tries to ensure the safety of Nigerians, it is quite disheartening to see those efforts being truncated by citizens.
Needless to say, there are growing concerns as to the registration exercise for all APC members across the country. The APC has called for the registration of new members across all level while asking all old members to reregister. This has generated concerns because the window for the exercise is just two weeks. The question that has emerged from all quarters is: how does APC intend to register as many as 10 million members across the country within the cycle of two weeks, particularly when it is largely manual and in the middle of a pandemic? The concerns largely stem from the fact that such exercises do not occur without the usual jostle with which Nigerians are known for. This can further beef up the doubt in many Nigerians as regards the existence of the virus in the country.
The newly signed law however vindicates the current administration, and expunges all doubts concerning the existence of the virus. This jail term will keep everybody on their toes if it is enforced.
With this newly signed law, Nigerians undoubtedly will be more law abiding. Local gatherings will be more “protected”. Face masks will be worn. Social distanciaWng will be observed and the upsurge of the virus will be checked. If we must come out of this as a nation, all hands must be on deck. The enforcement agencies and respective authorities should carry out their duties conscientiously. Nigerians as well should assist the FG in the fight against the virus by reporting violations to law enforcement agencies. We must take our destiny in our hands.