In a recent development, Dr. Monday Onyekachi Ubani, former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), encountered a setback in his legal pursuit against the proliferation of roadblocks along the Lagos-Southeast routes. The Federal High Court in Lagos dismissed Ubani’s suit, prompting reflections on the delicate balance between national security measures and individual rights to free movement.
Brief details of the suit:
Ubani’s legal action targeted key government agencies, including the Attorney-General of the Federation, Inspector-General of Police, Comptroller General of Customs, Chief of Defence Staff, and Corp Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corp. He sought a declaration that the increased presence of roadblocks on Lagos-Southeast routes violated his right to free movement, as enshrined in the constitution.
The suit also listed the Police Force, Nigeria Customs Service Board, Nigerian Army, and Federal Road Safety Commission as co-respondents. Ubani argued that these roadblocks disrupted traffic, constituted a nuisance, and inflicted unwarranted suffering on road users.
Ubani’s Grounds for the Injunction: Providing a personal account, Ubani shared an incident from 2021 when he, along with his family, endured a 15-hour journey from Lagos to Abia State due to numerous roadblocks. The respondents acknowledged the mounting roadblocks but maintained that it fell within their legal mandate to ensure national security.
The judgement of the Court was delivered by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke
His Lordship, Aneke, acknowledged the evidence of roadblock proliferation along the Lagos-Southeast road, leading to extended travel times. The court, however, held that the right to free movement was derogated due to the constitutional powers granted to the President and security agencies for national security.
The judgment emphasized that the roadblocks, although restricting freedom of movement, were justified as part of the security measures to secure the country. The court did not delve into Ubani’s concerns about the concentration of these measures on roads leading to the Eastern region, leaving the issue unexplored.
Ubani’s Reaction and Future Steps: Expressing his dissatisfaction with the judgment, Ubani announced his intention to appeal or modify his reliefs and return to court. He contends that the roadblocks primarily serve the purposes of extortion and inconvenience rather than constituting genuine security measures.
The dismissal of Ubani’s suit raises critical questions about the nuanced balance between security measures and individual rights. As the legal proceedings continue, the outcome may have broader implications for enforcing fundamental rights within the context of national security.
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