COVID-19: Court convicts 86 persons in Delta for contravening lockdown order

By Atevure Princess,

The mobile courts set up to prosecute defaulters of the  Stay-at-Home Order by the Delta state government to curtail the spread of the dreaded coronavirus pandemic, sitting at Ozoro Magisterial District has sentenced 86 defaulters for contravening the lockdown order.

Recall that the State Chief Judge, Justice Marshal Umukoro on the 7th of April, 2020 inaugurated the mobile courts across the three senatorial zones to prosecute offenders who violate the restriction of movement of people, and product within, and out of the state as a proactive measure to curbing the spread of the virus in the state.

The convicts who were arrested by the police from Ozoro, Abbi, Otor-Owhe, Kwale and Oleh communities were among the total number of 93 defaulters arraigned under the Delta State Infectious Disease (Emergency Prevention) Regulation 2020.

The offence is punishable under Section 5 of the Quarantine Act Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990, punishable under Section 203 of the Criminal Code Law, CAP C21, Laws of Delta State of Nigeria, 2006.

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Mr Humphrey Oghoghomeh, Principal State Counsel, Ministry of Justice, Ozoro Zone told the court that the suspects were found walking about and travelling without a pass, and were not engaging in essential services that fell under the exemption list thereby flouting the Stay-at-Home order of the state governor.

Pleading guilty to the one-count charge, the defendants who were not represented by any legal practitioner pleaded for leniency, explaining that they went out to buy foodstuffs or finding their daily bread following the extension of the lockdown order for another two weeks.

While they claimed to have exhausted their savings, a couple said that they were travelling from Asaba to Ughelli to join their children as a result of the extension.

The presiding Chief Magistrate, Happy Enakpoya, held that the conduct and action of the defendants disclosed total disregard to the government’s Stay-at-Home Order made pursuant to Section 203 of the Criminal Code Laws of Delta State.

According to him, the reasons offered by the defendants were frivolous and unsatisfactory.

However, he said that considering the fact that the defendants were first offenders, and recourse to their plea for leniency, the court gave some fines ranging from N500.00 to N3000.00 while sentencing others to community service.

Seven of the arraigned were discharged, including the SSA to the Deputy Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, Honourable Emma Adigwe who thanked the Magistrate for exercising justice.

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He stated that from what he observed and experienced in the court proceedings, his confidence and trust in the Judiciary as the last hope of the common man has been reinforced.

Narrating his ordeal in the hands of the police which led to his arraignment, Hon. Adigwe said that one of his security guards working in his company, ARMOUCOP Glasses Security System Nig. Ltd was coming to see him when the police arrested and impounded his motorcycle.

He continued that after discussing with the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Kwale Division he went to the station to secure the release of his staff and the motorcycle when the officers manhandled and threw him into detention, only to be arraigned on a trumped-up charge of violating the order of the state government.

He asked rhetorically, “how can I contravene an order that I was part of the taskforce of enforcing?”

Adigwe used the opportunity to advise residents of the state to obey the order by staying at home, maintain social distance protocol, wash their hands regularly and use sanitizers, adding that every hand must be on deck to curtail the spread of the dreaded virus from spreading in the state.

So far, a total of 716 suspected defaulters have been arraigned, 399 sentenced and 209 discharged since the mobile court kicked off in Delta State.

Meanwhile, two in Abraka were referred to a medical practitioner due to ill health by the Learned Chief Magistrate, Odjugo Ena.



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