Every last Saturday of the month in Lagos State is dreaded by Lagosians as freedom of movement is restricted between the hours of 7am -10am and many a time people fall victims of this restriction as they are arrested by environmental sanitation task force and summarily tried in special offences courts billed for such purposes. Most of these offenders find their selves in prison or are asked to pay fines to get off the hook.
But with the Court of Appeal, Lagos Judicial division’s judgment delivered on Friday 4 November, 2016 in the case of Faith Okafor Vs. AG Lagos State a new dawn can be said to have come as the court in its judgment nullified the restriction of movement on Environmental Sanitation Saturdays in Lagos State. The court held that the directive of the Governor of Lagos State on restriction of movement between the hours of 7am-10am every last Saturday is illegal and unconstitutional.
Well, the general interpretation of this judgment is that until such a time, if any that the Supreme Court overturns the decision of the Court of Appeal, there is freedom of movement in Lagos State.
It is unclear whether the Lagos State Government will appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal of not. But whether this decision will be implemented by residents of Lagos State is largely dependent on the outreach of the information and the courage to cite the judgment as an overriding authority to the law of Lagos State – Environmental Sanitation Law 2000 which came into force on 21 November 2000 and placed restriction on freedom of movement on environmental sanitation Saturdays.
Prior to now, the origin of environmental sanitation in post colonial Nigeria can be traced to 1983, after the demise of the second republic. Numerous environmental sanitation edicts were promulgated by State governments and in 1985 environmental sanitation reached its peak during the Buhari regime as it was chosen as the theme in the fifth phase in the War Against Indiscipline (WAI). The then chief of Staff Major General Idiagbon announced a one million naira prize for the cleanest State capital. This spurred State capitals into a cleaning frenzy, state sanitation task forces were organised, additional sanitation workers were hired, piles of rubbish were removed and drains clogged for years were opened.
However, in Lagos State the Environmental Sanitation Enforcement Agency (Task Force) was established by Environmental Sanitation Edict 1991 with commencement date on 4th November 1991 and subsequently re-designed as Environmental Sanitation Enforcement Agency vides Law Cap E6.Law of Lagos State 2003. Its duties include but not limited the following.
To address the problems of poor sanitary conditions and indiscriminate slum settlements and shanties in Lagos State.
However, with all these measures in place is the Environmental Sanitation Law 2000 sufficient to curtail the freedom of movement of citizens as protected by section 41 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria.
Other burning questions that we ought to answer are: Will the restriction of movement make for a cleaner environment on environmental sanitation Saturdays as opposed to implementation of cleanliness of the environment rather than emphasis on curtailing movement of people.
Well, at present, a certified true copy of the Court of Appeal Judgment will come handy on last Saturdays of the month except the Lagos State Government is willing to take a bow by amending its laws and respecting the judgment of the court as it stands. Although the freedom of movement on environmental sanitation Saturdays are not cast in stone as the Lagos State Government for one pressing reason or the other such as state examination as had course to cancel it in the past.