Thirty-six people who allegedly flouted the stay-at-home order of the Lagos State Government were on Wednesday brought before a Yaba Chief Magistrates’ Court in the state.
The government charged Emeka John, Kingsley Jacob, Chukwuma Okwubaba, Luke Eboro and 32 others with being in a gathering of more than 20 people, in violation of the social distancing directive of the state government.
Thirty-three of the defendants admitted guilt while three – Adetutu Adurogbangba, Segun Joshua and Obi Okoye – pleaded not guilty.
The prosecution team led by Cyril Ejiofor from Lagos State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, Yaba, had told the court that the defendants committed the offence on Wednesday (April 8) on Bush Street/Gbagada Express Road, Ogudu, Lagos.
He alleged that the defendants gathered themselves in the above-mentioned address, contrary to the social distancing directives.
Earlier, counsel to the defendants, Oluwafunlola Salam, prayed the court to quash the charge, claiming that the court had no jurisdiction to try the case.
He argued that the charge was unknown to law, saying that it stemmed from the governor’s directive yet to be presented to the state House of Assembly or passed into law.
The Chief Magistrate, Peter Ojo, however, dismissed the objection.
He sentenced the defendants who pleaded guilty to one month of community service.
He directed that before the commencement of the community service, they should be isolated for 14 days at the Infectious Disease Control Centre, Yaba, or any facility available in the state.
He ordered that they should also be tested for the COVID-19.
“If their tests show negative twice, they should proceed to the Lagos State Secretariat, Alausa, to carry out the community service,” he held.
He added that the three defendants who pleaded not guilty should also be kept in isolation at the centre for 14 days and tested accordingly.
The chief magistrate ordered that if certified COVID-19 negative twice, the defendants should be re-arraigned before the court.
“Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should undergo treatment compulsorily and be brought before the court again for arraignment or serve sentence as the case may be.
NAN reports that the offence is contrary to the social distancing directives of the 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.
It is punishable under Section 58 of the Public Health Law of Lagos State, 2015.
The case has been adjourned until April 21 for mention.