The Constitutionality of Covid-19 Measures Under the Nigerian Federal System

Author: Muyiwa Adigun

ISSN: 2521-5434
Affiliations: Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria
Source: Africa Journal of Comparative Constitutional Law, 2021, p. 88 – 121


In November 2019, a novel coronavirus appeared in China. Once it enters a person’s body, it causes a disease known as Covid-19. This disease is highly communicable and began to spread to other parts of the world, including Nigeria. To prevent the spread of the disease in Nigeria, the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari announced measures in a national broadcast, introducing new measures in an attempt to combat the disease. This article examines the constitutionality of the measures taken within the framework of the Nigerian federal system. The article finds that the president did not expressly declare a state of emergency, did not indicate the constitutional provisions relied upon in his broadcast, while he did rely on the Quarantine Act in respect of regulations made and introduced measures that were far-reaching that had a telling effect on the Nigerian federal system. The article argues that measures could have been taken under the derogation clause, the limiting clause in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, the Quarantine Act, the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy and the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution on emergency powers. However, none of these instruments would have constitutionally justified suspending the Nigerian federal system without a controversy, except for measures taken in the exercise of emergency powers. The article concludes that, since the Nigerian president did not declare a state of emergency, the measures taken could be said to have been unconstitutional to the extent that they suspended federalism, if federalism is considered an expression of checks and balances, and not only a mechanism to manage diversity. Furthermore, even under a pandemic situation, excessive power should be checked.