- May 10, 2021
- Posted by: Stephen Azubuike
- Categories: Legal Explainer, Opinions, Trending
From the trending reports, Bishop David Oyedepo of Living Faith Church International (Winners Chapel) has spoken out against Covid-19 Vaccine. The revered Man of God has equally urged members of his congregation to reject the Vaccine.
In order appreciate the issues, we need to begin by looking at the provisions of Section 45(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which states:
Nothing in sections 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41 of this Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society (a) in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or (b) for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom or other persons.
Section 37 provides for right to privacy. Section 38 guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Section 39 guarantees freedom of expression. Section 40 guarantees freedom of association and Section 41 guarantees freedom of movement. Therefore, what Section 45(1) of the Constitution is saying is that these rights are not absolute rights. They are qualified rights.
Ordinarily, any law that attempts to infringe on those rights stands to be invalidated. However, in line with Section 45, if such “an infringing law” becomes necessary in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom or other persons, then the law cannot be invalidated.
It was largely based on the above that we were mandated to go on Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 and we never tried to file for breach of our fundamental right to freedom of movement. Churches were asked to suspend mass and service and the seeming breach of the right to religion wasn’t an issue. Similarly, events were put on hold against our freedom of association and we didn’t cry foul.
The reasons were that the outbreak of Covid-19 meant that public health, public safety and the rights of others are significant factors to be put into consideration.
Where does the law stand?
How does the above position of the law translate to the use of Covid-19 Vaccine? First, we must commend the medical scientists and researchers who invented the Covid-19 Vaccine for the containment of the deadly virus. Regardless of the negative reports from some quarters, the Vaccine appears to have recorded some measure of success which has made some countries to accept it within their respective jurisdictions. Nigeria has already welcomed it.
However, the challenge has been the creation of awareness and orientation campaigns to enable the people to willingly accept the Vaccine. While at it, some religious influencers like Bishop David Oyedepo do not appear to be willing to accept the potency of the Vaccine. Their decision is not based on any scientific postulation. Rather, they are coming from a spiritual angle which is difficult to be interrogated on the platform of reason. Considering their power of influence on their congregation, their opinions will most likely be more regarded than that of medical experts in a country like Nigeria where religion plays a key role in human affairs.
Though unrelated, it is ironic that most people in Nigeria commit to prayers what human physical efforts can possibly sort out without any recourse to the supernatural. After all, God has given man power (both physical and mental) to subdue the earth. But most Nigerians and our leaders, even while dwelling in the coven of corruption, have decided to leave to God what humans can solve by diligence and probity.
Beyond the appeal for acceptance, the Government may, through the instrumentality of the law, compel the people to be vaccinated, placing reliance on Section 45 of the Constitution. There are different degrees of compulsion. Hardly would the Government move from house to house, coercing people to get vaccinated. However, certain privileges and rights may be denied except you provide evidence of vaccination. This is one of the most effective modes. For example, many people didn’t like the idea of obtaining Bank Verification Number (BVN) because it has to do with biometrics. But when your bank account stands restricted, you have no choice but to go for the verification exercise to obtain your BVN. Already, we have seen international travel restrictions based on production of Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result certificate of not more than 72 or 96 hours validity before boarding. The PCR test is said to be the “gold standard” test for diagnosing Covid-19 because it is the most accurate and reliable test.
Matters of faith and reason are often on parallel lines. But we must not entirely disregard the suspicions fueled by faith, because the days are evil. At the same time, we are reminded that sometimes, faith is agitated when there seems to be no concrete scientific explanation and proof of certain events and development. We tend to proceed on the lane of fear and total submission to the supernatural, without reasonably faulting genuine efforts of science in resolving certain human crisis. Covid-19 Vaccine appears to be on the threshold of such dispute, but time will reveal and clarify all things like it always do.
Featured Image Credit: Linda Ikeji’s Blog