Popular Nollywood actress, Funke Akindele, also known as Jenifa, has apologised after coming under fire for hosting a celebrity-studded house party amidst the Coronavirus lockdown.
The actress who hosted the party to celebrate her husband, JJC Skillz— Abdulrasheed Bello’s birthday—in their Amen Estate home, Lagos on Saturday, came under attack for flouting government directives on total lockdown and ban on large gatherings to flatten the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The party had in attendance, singer Naira Marley, actress Eniola Badmus and a host of other guests.
In a video from the party, JJC Skillz said it was his birthday and he had to invite friends to celebrate with him at their home along the Lekki-Epe Expressway.
He said, “Na here we dey, those of us wey get mind (sic). This is the best estate to be stuck in during the lockdown. It is my birthday.”
The guests, who were over 20, including Naira Marley, were also seen singing ‘Ma fo’, a song released by the musician.
The video drew the ire of Nigerians on social media with many calling on both the Federal Government and the Lagos State Government to take immediate action.
Many Nigerians called for the arrest of the Bellos as they described the party as ‘an act of gross irresponsibility.’
A Twitter user, @Dolusegun, tweeted:“Funke Akindele and her husband should be arrested this morning.”
Another user, @Klazematics, said, “The government won’t succeed with this lockdown if people like Funke Akindele are not punished for their reckless behaviour. A scapegoat needs to be made of them.”
Concerned about the likelihood of the spread of the virus, a user, @n6oflife6, said the guests should be quarantined to forestall a possible spread.
He tweeted: “Dear @NCDCgov, your Ambassador Funke Akindele, Her Husband JJC, Eniola Badmus, Naira Marley & the Entire Family threw a packed House Party Ystd. I love Funke & have nothing against her but Everyone in that House should be Forcefully Quarantined. Pls treat as Urgent. Face with medical mask.”
Some also expressed disappointment in the actress who has been the face of the NCDC campaigns for sanitising and social distancing against the pandemic, for throwing a party in a crowded room when the country is going through a crisis.
@Danny_Walter, a twitter user, wrote, “See the Crowd at Funke Akindele’s Party with Naira Marley in attendance, Eniola Badmus and people who just barely returned from the UK. The height of irresponsibility!”
Questioning Funke’s credibility as NCDC ambassador, another user @kyng_Ironside wrote:
“Imagine how irresponsible can funke akindele so what exactly was the essence of the NCDC using her in a video to create awareness about the harmful effects of Covid19?”
-Did two awareness videos on social distancing.
Yet, Funke Akindele Invited Eniola Badmus and Naira Marley who returned from the UK into her house, as if that wasn’t enough, she threw a full house party.”
This level of recklessness is insane!
@waleAdetona wrote, “It’s gross irresponsibility for Funke Akindele, who should know better as an ambassador of the @NCDCgov, to throw a party in this delicate period. Practice what you preach ffs! What message are you passing to your followers? “Coronavirus is not that serious”?
@sugarjunkie, another twitter user, questioned the ‘sanity’ of the Bellos for hosting a party amidst pandemic.
“Funke Akindele and her husband are selfish and wicked, how can a sane person host a party during a social distancing phase? Doctors and Nurses are stressing out and dying and they do this? She needs to be called out and held accountable,” she wrote.
In her defence, the actress said in a video on her Instagram page that the guests at the party had been in the estate before the lockdown.
She, however, apologised to Nigerians for the lapse in judgement in sharing the video on social media at the wrong time, thereby sending a wrong message to her followers.
“My husband and I run the Scene One studio in Amen Estate where we live. We have about twelve studios in the estate where we film our movies. We have a strength of about a hundred workers. When the pandemic started, we had to stop all works, including ‘Omo Ghetto, the Saga’ that was supposed to start in April.
“Before the lockdown was announced by our president, a lot of youths were in the estate for a boot camp, some of which you saw in the video. When the lockdown started, some of the staff that live outside Lagos couldn’t go back so they had to stay back.
“Naira Marley is part of the Omo Ghetto project. When the lockdown started, he decided to stay back because he loved the environment. Then my husband’s birthday came up and we all celebrated as a family,” she said.
The veteran actress said putting the videos of the party up on social media should not have happened. She apologised for misleading people with it and promised to always practice what she preaches.
She concluded the video by emphasising that no one came to the party from outside the estate, while reiterating her support for the efforts of the government in the fight against the Coronavirus.
However, her husband has been accused of showing no remorse for throwing the party amid the pandemic as he said in a video—now deleted— that people can continue to say whatever they want.
“A lot of people have been ranting and talking on social media this morning. It’s their data, they are very free,” he said.
He added that actress Eniola Badmus who recently returned to the country had been quarantining in Amen Estate before the lockdown and “is very fine because she showed no symptoms.”
Risk of fine, jail term
With the violation of the government-ordered lockdown and ban on large gatherings, the couple now risks a fine or jail term as comeuppance for the violation.
The Lagos Infection Diseases Regulations 2020 (the Regulations) prescribes a jail term of one month or N100,000 fine or both for persons found guilty of hosting gatherings or flouting the lockdown order.
“Where there is a violation of a close down or stay at home order, security agencies shall have power to arrest without warrant and may detain any person who violates the close down or stay at home order for at least forty-eight (48) hours.
“Where the arrested person is found guilty, the person is liable to a fine of one Hundred Thousand Nara fine (N100,000.00) or one (1) month imprisonment or three (3) months Community service,” it reads in part.