Hundreds of members of the All Progressives Congress in Lagos on Friday crowded into a street in Agege for a sensitisation rally, in clear violation of the state’s COVID-19 law.
In a video obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, top party members of the party, including Mudashiru Obasa, the speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, were in attendance.
The rally held despite the ban on the gathering of more than 50 persons by the Lagos State Infectious Disease law and the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations recently passed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Both regulations require that a physical distance of at least two metres shall be maintained at all times between persons and no gathering of more than 50 persons.
The laws also stipulate that persons will not be allowed in any gathering without the use of facemasks and proper washing of hands.
Despite these provisions, many of the APC party members who attended the sensitisation rally had no face masks on and there was total disregard for physical distancing.
The Lagos State government, had in the past, prosecuted people who violate COVID-19 protocols using the Infectious Disease law, including a popular Nigerian actress, Funke Akindele, who was convicted for violating the law.
During the last protest at the Lekki tollgate, the police arrested and charged 40 people to court for “failing to comply with the Restriction/Prohibition Quarantine Law which prohibits any social gathering to avoid spreading and contracting of Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 5 of the Quarantine Act Q2 Law of Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The police spokesperson in Lagos, Muyiwa Adejobi, said he was not aware of the gathering.
“I will find out and revert,” Mr Adejobi told PREMIUM TIMES on Friday.
Subsequent attempts to reach him throughout the weekend were unsuccessful; he did not respond to phone calls and text messages.
In the video, the crowd at the rally sang in honour of Mr Obasa, who, as Speaker of the House, is the number three man in the Lagos State government.
Despite playing a key role in the passing of the Lagos Infectious Diseases (Emergency Prevention) Regulations, 2020, Mr Obasa addressed the crowd, who flagrantly violated COVID-19 protocols.
Speaking in the Yoruba language, the Speaker said there is a need for them to support the state government and other elected party members.
“Let us not fight one another, we need to dwell in love and also support the party,” he said in the opening of the video, with the crowd singing his praises.
He also told the party members that the state governor will open the Pen Cinema bridge, which is near completion “within the shortest time.”
“We are hopeful that the Pen Cinema Bridge will bring development to the Agege Constituency. We need to appreciate our governor and also support him because government is for everybody.
“We need to support elected officeholders. This bridge, for instance, if we see bad elements in the society trying to damage it, we should do our best to stop them,” Mr Obasa said.
The rally held on Friday, a day when markets across the state were shut to honour Lateef Jakande, the first civilian governor of Lagos State, who passed away last week.
Seye Oladejo, the spokesperson for APC in Lagos, said he was not aware of any rally in the state.
“That might be an old video, people post and repost and all that,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
“The speaker is too responsible to do something like that. He is the best person to reach out to, but I am not aware of that” he said.
Mr Oladejo added that there is no cause for any rally within the party as registration and revalidation of members is ongoing.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Eromosele Ebhomele, the Chief Press Secretary to Mr Obasa, he said it was not a rally but an APC party meeting and sensitisation in the Constituency.
Speaking on Mr Obasa’s presence despite the gathering flagrantly violated COVID-19 protocols, Mr Ebhomele said the Speaker was invited to the meeting like every other person.
“It was not the Speaker that organised the meeting, he was only invited.
“It was a party meeting and the issue that was discussed is the need for members of the party to go and revalidate their membership, as well as help, get new members into the party,” Mr Ebhomele said.
He further explained that because Mr Obasa is a party man and sensitisation held at his constituency, he needed to put up an appearance.
“Most of the people at the sensitisation were not even party members,” he said.
Civil Society reacts
Olanrewaju Suraju, the Chairperson of the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, said the rally shows the level of impunity going on in Lagos, and a bad representation of the state government, the ruling party. and the police.
“This is about the rule of law and equality before the law, there are no two laws and rules for the rich and the poor. There is only one law that guides the society, especially where people have been prosecuted and even convicted,” Mr Suraju said.
“This is the height of impunity, it is also a very bad representation of the ruling party in Lagos State, the state government and the police command,” Mr Suraju said.
Citing examples of Funke Akindele, a popular Nigerian actress and the protesters recently prosecuted for violating COVID-19 protocols, he said if the state goes ahead to prosecute any other person for breaking the law, the sensitisation programme should be the breaking line.
“Anybody brought before the law for breaking the protocol, should query and question the credibility of the Lagos State government in prosecuting them if it fails to prosecute not only those who were in attendance, but those who went to the sensitisation rally to address the people and the ones behind the rally.
“Some of them, even like the speaker, should have been morally upright to resign from office and tender unreserved apology to Lagosians for the misconduct,” Mr Suraju said.
Adeola Soetan, the national coordinator of Democracy Vanguard, said the ruling elites in Nigeria have always played by a different set of rules.
“In Nigeria, law is made to be broken by the lawless ruling elites with impunity while the governed pay heavily when they attempt to emulate the elites to break law,” Mr Soetan said.
“It’s a class issue and it exposes the hypocrisy and perfidy of our leaders, who don’t live by example.”
Mr Soetan condemned Mr Obasa’s actions, describing it as “symptomatic of how arrogant and disrespectful to law and order political leaders can be at all levels of government, cutting across political parties and regions.
“We should not forget that COVID-19 protocols were also broken by the presidency during the burial of Abba Kyari, late CoS to President Buhari. The same breach occurred during the marriage ceremony of one of Buhari’s beautiful daughters. Even Buhari has broken the face mask rule on many occasions.”
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