Funke Akindele, 236 Others Lose Suit Challenging Covid-19 Conviction

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Justice Akintayo Aluko of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, has struck out a suit by popular actress, Funke Akindale alias Jenifa, her husband Abdul Rasheed Bello, and 236 others seeking to set aside their conviction.

Justice Aluko held that the suit disclosed no reasonable cause of action, and was also incompetent.

Akindele and her husband plus their guests numbering 236, were convicted on April 6, 2020 by the Lagos State Magistrate Court in Ogba, days after they held a crowded house birthday party contrary to Lagos State’s social distancing order.

But, a Lagos-based lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje, approached the court, challenging the constitutionality of the Lagos State Infectious Diseases (Emergency Prevention) Regulations 2020 pursuant to which Akindele, her husband and 236 other residents were convicted and sentenced.

Joint Respondents in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/588/2020 are the Lagos State Government, Attorney-General of Lagos State, Commissioner of Police, Lagos State and the Inspector-General of Police.

Ogungbeje also sought, among others, an order compelling the Respondents jointly and severally, to tender a public apology in three widely read newspaper publications to persons/Nigerians arrested, arraigned, tried, convicted and sentenced.

But, the Lagos State Government and the AG opposed him through their counsel, a Deputy Director, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mr Adebayo Haroun.

The 1st and 2nd Respondent filed a notice of preliminary objection against the suit, on July 10, 2020.

According to them, Section 8 of the Quarantine Act, 2004 allows the Governor to make the regulations, where the President of Nigeria had not made such regulations. They contended that the Regulation was made for public safety, public good and protection, which is larger and far greater than that of an individual such as the Applicant.

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In his judgement delivered on June 2, 2022, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent, the court agreed in part with the Government.

Justice Aluko observed that the regulations disclosed in its preamble that the Governor made the regulations by virtue of the powers conferred on him by the Lagos State Public Health Law of Lagos State, 2015, and in particular Section 8 of the Quarantine Act, and that Section 8 provides that if regulations under Section 4 of the Act were not made by the President, power to make such regulations may be exercised by the Governor in respect of his State.

He held that: “This means that the regulations made by the Governor on the 27/3/2020 is valid within the context of Section 8 of the Quarantine Act, having been made at a time when the President had not made his own regulations. The Lagos State Infectious Disease (Emergency Prevention) Regulations 2020 is therefore, a subsidiary legislation validly made pursuant to Section 8 of the Quarantine Act.

“Contrary to the argument of the Applicant, Section 17 of the Regulations actually created certain offences ranging from failure to comply with the restriction order, prohibition or doing anything contrary to the provisions of the Regulations.

“Section 17 (2) of the Regulations provides that any person who contravenes the provisions of the Regulations shall be liable under the Quarantine Act, Public Health Law of the State, and any other existing law to fine or imprisonment or both.

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