Sanwo-Olu must end the lawless curfew

It is becoming increasingly common for traditional rulers to violate citizens’ right to free movement by unilaterally declaring and imposing curfews in their domains. This illegality is often perpetuated during the celebration of traditional festivals such as orò, egungun and Eluku. It is an atavistic violation of citizens’ fundamental rights to movement and assembly. Starting with the recent statement in Ikorodu, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and other governors in the South West must stop feigning ignorance of illegality and end impunity.

Just last week, the Ayang neighbor of Ikorodu, Kabiru Shotobi, issued a provocative statement informing residents of the Magbo (orò) Festival celebration scheduled for May 16. He imposed a curfew on the community and declared that women must stay indoors during the festival. The oba wrote to the authorities of the General Hospital, Ikorodu to comply with the restriction. This is a slap in the face to Sanwo-Olu. In a republican political system, the oba is under constitutional authority. He therefore has no right to restrict freedom of movement.

The oba’s Magbo (orò) Festival 2024 notice reads: “This is to inform you of the above-mentioned festival, which is scheduled for May 16, 2024. As per tradition, all women are advised to remain in their homes and not to move. around the city during the orò festival.’ The oba usurps the power of the governor and he oversteps his bounds.

With the orò festival underway, government parastatals, schools, markets and public spaces will reduce their activities. But there should be free movement of citizens in Ikorodu on May 16.

According to the law, only the government is authorized to impose a curfew on the grounds of insecurity or threat to national sovereignty. Ayang neighbors must realize that he is accountable to the Lagos State government, so declaring a curfew is not within his powers.

His statement violates Article 38 of the 1999 Constitution, which guarantees freedom of movement, worship and association.

State and local governments must continuously educate traditional rulers on the legal definition of roles and governance processes. The imperial nostalgia of traditional rules, which breeds dictatorial excesses, must be curbed.

The orò festival is both a religious and a cultural rite. However, in a state where residents adhere to a multitude of religions and come from different cultures, imposing a curfew on them amounts to a suppression of their religious freedom. If every religious group were to declare a curfew, it could only lead to chaos and lawlessness.

In the past, this has indeed led to several unwarranted clashes between different religious groups. In 2021, traditionalists clashed with Muslims in Ota, Ogun State over their non-compliance with the orò curfew imposed on the community. The Muslims, who were performing their evening prayers, opposed them. This prompted the area magistrates’ court to remand five traditionalists at the prison center for violating the religious sanctity of others.

In 2018, the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Muslim Community in Ipokia, Ogun State, sued some followers at the Ogun State High Court for allegedly violating their rights to freedom of movement and lawful assembly. They accused the Orò cult of expanding their activities beyond their enclaves and imposing daytime curfews in towns and villages. The judge, Sikiru Owodunni, ruled that the Orò sect had no constitutional powers to impose curfews on residents of Ipokia.

This is a step in the right direction. Individuals, businesses, and community leaders must protest this harassment and seek legal remedies to protect their rights against oppressive non-state actors.

African traditional religious followers must be righteous. While they have the right to practice their religion without being silenced by anyone, they should also not violate the rights of others.

Arbitrary curfews could fuel negative ethnic sentiments. People who consider Lagosa a cosmopolitan landscape are shocked by the brutal barbarity of the orò insiders. They violently enforce curfews, extort shop owners, and suppress businesses. The activities of the orò supporters disrupt the night-time economy in these areas.

Usually, those who are not familiar with the cultural terrain are often victims of the orò festival. This is not acceptable. Cultural and religious festivities should not trample on the fundamental and existential rights of others.

Unlike Ikorodu, Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago are tapping into the tourism potential of the same traditional and cultural features of the Yoruba to boost their tourism industries. In Nigeria, international investors fear for their lives, and cultural and historical evangelization is stalling. This is primitive.

In Brazil, where the Obaluwaye, Sango and Oya rituals are part of the tourist calendar, the 2023 Rio Carnival contributed $1.06 billion to the economy as tourists flooded the event. The Brazilian state of Bahia attracts millions of tourists every year. Nigeria’s lenient state governments can repeat this with the orò, egungun, Eyo and Eluku by making the festivals safe and eliminating violence and discriminatory restrictions.

Unfortunately, the orò festival in Lagos has also been used as a political weapon to hinder the socio-political aspirations of non-indigenous people. In February 2023, just before the March governorship elections, some obas imposed curfew in Mushin, Ijora-Badiya, Ojota, Amuwo-Odofin, Isolo-Okota-Ilasamaja, Ejigbo-Idimu, Ikotun-Igando, Lawanson-Itire and other parts of the region. stands.

The governor looked the other way, but many critics saw it as voter intimidation. Governors must take strong action against such illegalities.

Imposing curfews on women is dangerous. The egungun, orò and Eluku festivities violate their social, economic and fundamental rights. It is difficult for women to gather during this period; their jobs; crafts and market activities are also cancelled. They lock up their business outfits. A tense atmosphere arises.

The orò festival could undermine the government’s efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality in the country. If pregnancy-related complications arise during the daytime or nighttime curfew, the woman whose freedom of movement is restricted by the unpleasant curfew will not be able to access emergency healthcare during this period.

The government’s primary responsibility is to ensure that the country does not fall into the Hobbesian state of nature, where life is nasty, cruel and short. According to the 2023 Global Sustainable Competitive Index by SolAbility Sustainable Intelligence, a global consultancy, Nigeria ranks 162nd out of 180 countries. This shows that it is failing to facilitate sustainable competitiveness and good governance.

Therefore, the government must be aware of its obligations. It must put an end to the excesses of non-state actors.