Funke Akindele, husband get 14-day community service for flouting lockdown order

Actress, Funke Akindele, popularly known as Jenifa, and her musician husband, Abdul Rasheed Bello, have been sentenced to 14-day community service for violating the Lagos State’s lockdown order to check the spread of coronavirus.

Mrs Aje Afunwa of the Lagos State Magistrates’ Court in Ogba, who pronounced the sentence, also imposed a fine of N100,000 each on the husband and wife.

The magistrate, who also ordered that they should be placed in self-isolation, added that they must compile the names and phone numbers of everyone who attended Bello’s birthday party and submit same to the court.

The magistrate’s pronouncements followed the arraignment of the couple by the Lagos State Government for holding a birthday party attended by over 20 people in violation of the state’s lockdown order to check the spread of coronavirus.

The one-count filed against them by the state read, “That you (1) Funke Akindele (2) Abdul Rasheed Bello, on the 4th day of April, 2020, at Gbadamosi Close, Amen Estate, Ibeju Lekki in the Lagos Magisterial District, gathered at the aforementioned with over 20 persons, contrary to the social distancing directives of Mr Governor of Lagos State made pursuant to Regulation 8(1)(a) and (b) and 17(1)(i) of the Lagos State Infectious Disease (Emergency Prevention) Regulation 2020 and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 58 Public Health Law Cap P16 Vol. 9 Laws of Lagos State, 2015.”

When it was read to them, the couple told the chief magistrate, Aje Afunwa, that they had some clarifications to make.

When told that it was either they admit holding a party as alleged and plead guilty or deny holding a party and plead not guilty, they then pleaded guilty.

The Lagos State Attorney General, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), who led the prosecution team, said in view of their guilty plea, the magistrate should sentence them according to the provisions of the law.

However, the defence counsel, Yomi Alagbada, urged the magistrate to temper justice with mercy, saying the celebrity couple were “first-time offenders, respectable members of society and have two little children, one of whom is ill.”

He said, “The first defendant (Funke Akindele ) is an ambassador of Lagos State, she advocates that people should pay their taxes and she uses her talent to advance the cause of the state, she used to do it and with continue to do it.

“I urge My Lord to consider this relationship which will continue after now and I hope My Lord will play a role in ensuring the relationship between the first defendant and Lagos State continue.”

In her judgment, the magistrate scolded the couple, saying it was “reckless and irresponsible” of them to have organised such a party “when thousands have died or have been infected and the whole world is mourning”.

“It is callous for an individual to throw such a huge party; while governments are paying millions to flatten the curve the two defendants were strengthening the curve by throwing a party.

“Have the two defendants lived up to the expectations of the public and teeming youths that look up to them? the answer is no,” magistrate said.

Pronouncing the sentence, Afunwa said, “The defendants shall pay a fine of N100,000 within three days from today. They are to serve community service for a period of 14 days, for three hours, from 9am-12pm daily, excluding Saturday and Sunday. The community service shall be done in any public place in Lagos.

“The defendants shall be made to visit 10 important public places in Lagos State to generate awareness of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences of non-compliance with the laws created to curb the spread of the disease.

“Each defendant shall provide the names, addresses and GSM numbers of every person who attended the party within 24-hours.

“In order to ensure that COVID-19 does not spread, the defendants shall be immediately held in isolation for 14 days in a place only known to the Lagos State Ministry of Health.”