The police in Akwa Ibom State have arraigned a man for defamation of character after alleging on Facebook that nine commissioners in Governor Udom Emmanuel’s cabinet have tested positive for coronavirus.
George Udom, 39, was on Monday arraigned before a magistrate in Uyo on a two-count charge.
He is also accused of defaming the character of a cleric, Umoh Eno, by publishing on Facebook that his mother and maid died of COVID-19. Mr Eno is the owner of a popular hotel, Royalty Hotels, in Eket.
The police told the magistrate that Mr Udom’s claims were false and punishable under Section 383 (1) (b) and Section 384 of the Criminal Code, Cap 38, Vol. 2, Laws of Akwa Ibom State.
Mr George pleaded not guilty to the charges.
A mild drama, however, occurred in the courtroom during the proceedings. Mr Udom continuously sneezed in court, forcing the magistrate, Winifred Umohandi, to abruptly adjourned proceedings.
Sneezing is one of the symptoms of COVID-19.
The magistrate ordered Mr Udom to be taken to the Ibom Specialist Hospital, Uyo, and be kept in isolation for 14 days for health officials to ascertain whether he is positive or not for COVID-19.
Health officials at the Ibom Hospital who checked Mr Udom’s vital signs told the police officers who brought him that his temperature was normal and that he did not show any symptoms of COVID-19.
The hospital refused to register him as a patient until they were informed that it was an order of a court.
Mr Udom wrote on Facebook on April 26, “If you’re in Akwa Ibom state at this moment, run and hide for your dear life!
“We have a lot of unrecorded death on the ground in relation to Covid-19 and still spreading like wildfire.
“As we speak, we have about 9 commissioners who have tested positive and receiving treatment at home.
“The mother of the owner of Royalty Hotel and the maid just died having Covid-19 symptoms and when the test came out it was positive.
“The mother of the Royalty Hotel also owns fast food and a water company. After her return from the U.S., she became sick and died. Same with her maid. Meanwhile, the son is positive and these people before their death had contacts with other persons.
“The authorities are fully aware of the situation and are just trying to carry out some sort of damage control. It will amaze you to find that even under this lockdown, those in authority are still traveling to and from Lagos using government pass and escorts.”
One of Mr Udom’s last posts on Facebook on Monday was that police were “breaking” into his house in Uyo. “Call 911,” he wrote.