Paul Osuyi, Asaba
A total of 176 violators of the lockdown order of the Delta State Government have been convicted in the last three days by mobile courts across the three senatorial districts of the state.
67 others were discharged by the presiding magistrates including Odjugo Ena of Ughelli Magisterial Division for Delta central; Helen Okonkwo of Asaba Magisterial Division forDelta north; and Sohwo Edoja of Warri Magisterial Division for Delta south.
Further breakdown of the figures showed that in Asaba, 127 were arraigned, 89 sentenced and 38 discharged; while 45 were arraigned in Ughelli with 14 discharged and 31 sentenced; and in Warri, 71 were arraigned, 56 sentenced and 15 discharged.
The lockdown which took effect from April 1, was declared by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as a measure to curtail the spread of Coronavirus pandemic in the state.
But the mobile courts were set up by the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Marshal Umukoro few days ago following reported cases of violation of the order.
They were arraigned under the Delta State Infectious Disease (Emergency Prevention) Regulation 2020 punishable under section 5 of the Quarantine Act Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990, and Delta State Infectious Disease (Emergency Prevention) Regulation 2020 punishable under Section 203 of the Criminal Code Law, CAP C21, Laws of Delta State of Nigeria, 2006.
Most of the convicts who pleaded guilty with sundry defences of going to purchase food items for their families and engaging in daily job to eke out a living, were fined between five hundred and three thousand Naira.
The court also made an order for vehicles, tricycles and motorcycles belonging to some of the defaulters to be detained until the period of the lockdown is over, even as others were sentenced to do community services for two or more weeks as the merit of the case demands.
The presiding magistrates dismissed their defences as unsatisfactory and frivolous.
They, however, applied ingenuity and astuteness of the law to discharge some defendants after probing further into the merit of their case only to discover that such ones were performing essential duties which were exempted from the restrictive order, even when the defendants ignorantly pleaded guilty.
Public Relations Officer of the state police command, PPRO, DSP Onome Onovwakpoyeya said prosecution of offenders showed that the state government is committed to enforcing the lockdown, adding that it would as deterrent to others.