COVID-19: Rights Lawyer Says, el-Rufai Has No Powers To Keep Schools Closed, Heads To Court

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Governor el-Rufai

By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON

Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s indefinite closure of schools in Kaduna State over COVID-19 infections has been challenged by a Kaduna based Human Rights lawyer in court.
In a case reference: Suit No.KDH/46/21 before High Court 8, Kaduna, presided by Justice Binta Zubairu,  Barrister Desmond Dadu Tabakwot, also Public Interest Litigator, and father of two school pupils, said that el-Rufai has no powers to keep all private and public schools closed indefinitely because his executive order on the matter was an infringement on the constitutional rights of affected students.
Governor el-Rufai, who is the 1st Respondent is joined in the case with Kaduna State Attorney General and Kaduna State Commissioner of Education as the 2nd and 3rd Respondents respectively.
In arguing his submission, Tabakwot, who is suing on behalf of his two children, Mitchel and Mildred Tabakwot argued that:
“The Federal Government of Nigeria on Thursday, January, 14th 2021 in Abuja directed that all public and private schools across the country should resume on Monday, January, 18th, 2021, and the schools should adhere strictly to COVID-19 protocols.
“That pursuant to the directive of the Federal Government of Nigeria,  as stated in paragraph 4 above, the Lagos State Government announced that all schools in the Southwest State are to reopen on Monday, January, 18, 2021.
“That similarly, schools in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory and Kano State have also resumed as directed by the Federal Government.
“That the Statement of the Government of Kaduna State and by extension the 1st Respondent above is a breach of the rights of students in the state enshrined under section 18 (1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“That other schools and institutions in other States like Lagos State the F.C.T. and Kano State have resumed full academic session with normal academics activities going on in compliance with the Federal Governments directives of adhering to Covid-19 protocols.
“In fact, other public places with higher risk of Covid-19 spread and contact such as Mosques, Churches and various markets within Kaduna metropolis, have been functioning optimally while complying with the Covid-19 protocols among others:
Tabkwot is therefore, seeking among Declarations that:
“That all the students (in every Nursery, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Institutions) in Kaduna State are entitled to the enjoyment of the objectives set out under section 18 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“That all the students (in every Nursery, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Institutions) in Kaduna State are entitled to the enjoyment of the rights enshrined under Article 17 (1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. 
“That the continuous closure of, and refusal to open the Schools in Kaduna State and the failure of the 1st Respondent to discharge his constitutional duties and responsibilities under section 18 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) amounts to a breach or violation of the right to education of all the students in Kaduna State enshrined and protected under Article 17 (1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
“That the continuous closure of, and refusal to open all the Schools in Kaduna State and the failure of the 1st Respondent to discharge his constitutional duties and responsibilities under section 18 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) amount to a breach or violation of the right to freedom from discrimination of all the students in Kaduna State enshrined and protected under section 42 (1) (a) of the same Constitution.
He then enjoined that court to make  an Order compelling the Respondents to, “forthwith open the all the Schools (Nursery, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Institutions) in Kaduna State to enable normal academic activities to resume thereat.
He also sought any other reliefs that the court may deem just and fit to make in the circumstances of his application.


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