By Oludare Odetoki
I saw a video of Funke Akindele in court along with her husband while they were being taken to the court room for arraignment for violating social distancing regulation made by the Governor of Lagos State to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. The video has gone viral already.
The charge with number MIK/A/43/2020 stated as follows: “That you 1. Funke Akindele and Abdul Rasheed Bello on the 4th day of April 2020 at 9 Gbadamosi Close, Amen Estate, Ibeju Lekki, in Lagos Magisterial District gathered at the aforementioned address with over 20 persons contrary to the social distancing directive of Mr. Governor of Lagos State made pursuant to Regulation 8(1) (a) & (b) and 17 (1) (i) of the Lagos State Infectious Disease (Emergency Prevention) Regulation 2020 punishable under section 58 of the Public Health Law Cap P16 Vol.9 Laws of Lagos State 2015.
Now, it was good for government to demonstrate that everyone is equal be fore the law and that there are no sacred cows anywhere. However, it will be an anomaly to break the law whilst enforcing the law.
In the video there was a crowd clustered around Funke and her husband as they made their way up the stairs to the court room. There were more people in the video without face masks than with face masks. The regulatory social distancing was not maintained.
If Funke and her husband (assuming they were tested for the virus before arraignment but nothing suggested they were tested before arraignment since the report in the news was that they will be isolated after conviction which should have been the first thing) were not infected as a result of their partying, they were exposed to the infection in that crowd and similarly if the couple had been infected in their party, then they could very well pass on the virus to the surrounding crowd. I sincerely hope none of the above is the case.
During this pandemic when Lagos was still on partial lockdown, I was at the Special Offences Court at the High Court of Lagos State, Ikeja. The measures put in place was laudable. You could not get into the court premises without a face mask and in addition to that you have to sanitize your hands at the point of entry. In the court room, it was one case at a time and persons allowed in to the court room were the counsel, parties and witnesses per time. In the registry, 5 persons at a time were allowed in and it was strictly enforced. Why is it that now, that we have more cases on our hands is when caution is thrown to the winds?
Perhaps because of the celebrity status of the Defendants, the crowd including the law enforcement agents and other persons responsible for ensuring social distancing and for taking other precautionary measures in the court got carried away with the euphoria of the moment. It would appear as though the prosecution of the celebrity couple was more important than taking the precautionary measures against the spread of the virus that the state has spent so much resources to sensitize the public on. It was not a very good sight to watch at all.
If the government was serious enough to prosecute on the charge as replicated above, we should be serious enough not to let down our guard at anytime by taking the necessary precautions at all times while this pandemic lasts. That little time when everyone got carried away was enough for a major spread of the virus. It certainly will be counterproductive to seek to enforce a law and in the course of doing same blatantly flout the same law.
It was a serious negligence and a lesson could be learnt in the Funke Episode that we should be on our guards at all times whilst this pandemic lasts or else while the world would have moved on, we might just still have the crisis on our hands.