A rights activist and legal practitioner, Gideon Okebu, has advocated the inclusion of legal service providers on essential services list.
He said the inclusion legal service providers such as lawyer will checkmate rate abuse of of human rights during the lockdown directive and stay-at-home order of the Federal and state governments.
According to him, lawyers as an essential services during the lockdown, would allow alleged violators of the order and directive, to have access to legal practitioners of their choice.
The lawyer stated that the inclusion of lawyers on the essential services list, will be in line with the directives of the Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN), who directed all courts in the country to sit in respect of urgent and time-sensitive matters.
He stated that legal services as an essential service is pivotal to the legality, functionality and enforcement of the quarantine order of the president and the various governors who had made similar orders.
“In keeping with our current reality, legal services, particularly the services of advocates, should be specifically included as an essential service, which is exempt from lockdown measures.
“The listing of legal services as an essential is pivotal to the legality, functionality and enforcement of the quarantine order of the president and the various governors who have made similar orders.
“It is also to be recalled that by virtue of the directive of the CJN to the heads of all courts (whether it be ultra vires to his powers or not) courts were directed to sit in respect of urgent and time sensitive matters. This meant that the Judiciary wasn’t completely shut down but has merely been partially shut down. If my foregoing assertion is false, where are the violators of the lockdown orders to be prosecuted?
“The need for the inclusion of legal services as an essential service has also been exemplified by the prosecution of violators of the lockdown order, such as the Caverton pilots and passengers; Funke Akindele and others and the 21 people arraigned in Plateau State yesterday. These people and others who will still be prosecuted in the nearest future, are entitled to the constitutional right to be defended by attorneys.
“However, they can’t be represented by attorneys who are under lock and key. Although some of the aforementioned examples were represented by counsel upon arraignment, there is the express need to list legal services as an essential service which is exempt from the lockdown measures because leaving the matter as is, would give room for multiple interpretation, which is dependent on the prerogative of the security personnel enforcing the lockdown on the roads. This situation creates the possibility of policemen turning back attorneys who have matters and clients to represent in court.
“I therefore postulate that once any tier of government decides to make any lockdown order, enforce same and prosecute the violation of any such lockdown order, it becomes imperative to list the services of attorneys as an essential service,” he said.