A Law Good for the Goose, but Not the Gander

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funke-akindele and JJC Skillz

Last week’s withdrawal of the charges preferred against popular musician, Naira Marley and Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi, after convicting Nollywood actress, Funke Akindele and others clearly showed that what‘s good for the goose is not good for the gander in Lagos courts. Davidson Iriekpen writes

There was drama at Lagos State Magistrates’ Court in Ogba last Wednesday, when the state government withdrew the charges it filed against a singer, Azeez Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley, a former governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Babatunde Gbadamosi, and his wife, Folasade. They were all arraigned for attending the birthday party of Abdulrasheed Bello a.k.a JJC Skillz, husband of Nollywood actress, Funke Akindele, both of whom were last Monday convicted.

Akindele and her husband had last weekend held a party at their residence to celebrate his birthday with over 20 persons in attendance contrary to the social distancing directives made pursuant to Regulation 8(1)(a) and (b) & 17(1)(i) of the Lagos State Infectious Disease (Emergency Prevention) Regulations 2020. The video of the party showing a large number of persons mainly in the entertainment industry, including Marley and Gbadamosi in their estate along Ajah, Ibeju-Lekki axis, Lagos had gone viral.

The actress and her husband were subsequently arrested for committing an offence under Section 58 of the Public Health Law Cap P16 Vol. 9, Laws of Lagos State 2015.

Last Monday, Akindele and husband, Bello were convicted and sentenced to 14 days of community service. They were also fined N100,000 each for violating regulations on social distancing meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The court ordered the couple to spend three hours each day, excluding Saturday and Sunday, in carrying out the sentence. They were also mandated to visit 10 public places to educate people on the consequences of not complying with the directives on COVID-19.
The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN) led the prosecuting team.

When the one-count charge was read to the convicts, they pleaded guilty, enabling the court to sentence them to 14 days of community service, among others.

The court held that they must submit the names and phone numbers of every person, who attended the party, who shall be placed on isolation by the state government to determine their COVID-19 status. The court stressed that failure to abide by the directives shall attract more severe punishments.

After securing victory, the state police command immediately launched a manhunt for other guests at the party, including Naira Marley, who later turned himself in alongside a politician, Gbadamosi and his wife, Folashade.
But the momentum vanished when surprisingly, rather than met out the same punishment administered on Akindele and her husband, the state government dramatically withdrew the charges filed against Marley, Gbadamosi and his wife on the condition that they tender an apology to President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, whatever that means.

The drama started, when the trio arrived the court on Wednesday. To the consternation of all those present in the courtroom, the state Director of Public Prosecution, A.G. Oshoala, informed the court that he received a directive from the Attorney-General of Lagos State that in view of the remorseful disposition of the defendants, the state was willing to step down on the charges on three conditions.

The first condition was that the defendants write a formal apology to the Government of Lagos State, which will solidify their remorsefulness. (2) They have to give an undertaking in writing that they will continue to comply with the directives of Mr. President and Mr. Governor, which is the subject matter of the case before the court. (3) In view of the danger, which the state believes they’ve put themselves by attending a gathering exceeding 20 persons, they must agree to go on 14 days isolation to protect other members of the public from any likely danger.

All the defendants accepted the conditions and thereafter the DPP applied to withdraw the charges and further requested that the conditions be complied with, with updates given through the police officer in charge of legal department, State Criminal and Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, Yaba.

The defendants through their counsel all agreed with the conditions. Delivering a bench ruling, the magistrate said it was better to allow the defendants enough time to comply with the conditions. She adjourned to Thursday for the prosecutor to brief the court on whether all the conditions had been met, failing which they would be arraigned.

By the time the court resumed on Thursday, it was announced that the three defendants had agreed with the conditions and the charges against them were consequently struck out.

Almost simultaneously, the decision of the Lagos State government to withdraw the charges against the trio set tongues wagging with many wondering why the state did not follow the principle of “what is good for the goose is equally good for the gander.”
Those who spoke to THISDAY on account of anonymity accused the state government of bias and favouritism. They wondered why the same government, which refused to prosecute Naira Marley and the Gbadamosis would turn around to prosecute 202 joggers for the same office.
The 202 fitness enthusiasts arraigned before two Lagos Mobile Courts for violating the same lockdown order made to curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease in Lagos.

Officials of the Lagos State Taskforce had arrested the fitness addicts Thursday morning at over 15 areas in Lagos including Yaba, Agege, Ogudu/Ojota and Iju areas of the metropolis while they were jogging, cycling or loitering.

The trial held at the State Force Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Panti, Yaba, where they were charged before two Magistrates, Mrs. Makanju Oshodi and Mr. Nurudeen Layeni of the Lagos Mobile Courts. They all faced a one-count charge of violating the social distancing directives of the Lagos State government contrary to Regulation 1(1) of the COVID-19 Regulations and punishable under Section 5 of the Public Health Laws of Lagos State 2015.

The violators, who mostly pleaded guilty to the charge, were ordered to pay fines ranging from N5,000 to N10,000 to the Lagos State Government. They were in addition ordered to immediately commence a two-hour community service.