COVID-19: Court Strikes Out Suit Challenging Funke Akindele, Others’ Conviction

Funke Akindele and husband

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has struck out a suit seeking to set aside the conviction of a famous actress, Funke Akindele, alias Jenifa, her husband, Abdul Rasheed Bello, and 236 others who were Akindele for violating the state’s 2020 lockdown and social distancing to check the spread of COVID-19.

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

Ms Akindele and her husband were convicted on April 6, 2020, by the Lagos State Magistrates’ 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 under 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.

Mr 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/Nigerian arrested, prosecuted, 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, Adebayo Haroun.

The first and second respondents 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 more extensive and far more significant than an individual like the applicant.

In his judgement delivered on June 2, 2022, a copy of which was obtained by PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday, the court agreed in part with the government.

Mr Aluko observed that the regulations disclosed in its preamble that the governor made the regulations by 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.

He said Section 8 provides that if regulations under section 4 of the Act were not made by the President, power to make such regulations might be exercised by the governor in respect of his state.

He held: “This means that the regulations made by the governor on March 27, 2029, are valid within the context of section 8 of the Quarantine Act, having been made at a time when the president had not made his regulations.(Premium Times)