Joe Effiong, Uyo
The Akwa Ibom State government has extended the state’s COVID-19 lockdown by another 14 days to end on April 30th, declaring that violators would be made to pay fines, including 7 days community service
The first 14-day lockdown was instituted by Governor Udom Emmanuel to commence on April 3rd and expired on 5 pm of Thursday, April 16th just before the state chief judge, Justice Godwin Abraham, announced the extension of the lockdown by another 14 days as well as inaugurating a special court for the trial of offenders of Quarantine and Restriction of Movement Regulations, 2020.
The secretary to the state government, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem, had on Wednesday vacillated on whether the state government would extend the lockdown, rationalising that it would “depend on science”.
Judge Abraham, who announced the extension on Thursday, explained that a designated court was necessary for the purpose of speedy trial of violators, adding that chief magistrates in the various designated courts could also attend to other urgent matters of public importance.
The judge told reporters that the designated courts are available in the three senatorial districts of the state with an intention to create an addition in Uyo once necessary.
Courts in Akwa Ibom State are not sitting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For government to be able to enforce the Quarantine And Restriction Of Movement Regulations, 2020, Chief Magistrates had to be inaugurated for the special assignment. The Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom state pledged to provide Personal Protection Equipment in all the courts that the designated Chief Magistrates are to sit. He further enjoined all judicial officers to maintain social distancing and other necessary anti-COVID-19 precautionary measures.
The state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Uwemedimo Nwoko, said the court was necessary to avoid unlawfulness, even as he urged the people of Akwa Ibom to stay at home for the period of the quarantine and restriction of movement.
He explained that the law could only be reviewed for a possible extension where necessary after the April 30th expiration date.
The law stipulates that defaulting individuals are to pay N10,000 fine and to undergo community service for 7 days.
Impounded tricycles, motorbikes, cars and trucks found guilty, apart from the 7-day community service, are to pay N7,000, N20,000 and N50,000, respectively, when found guilty