Nigerian celebrity artiste, Funke Akindele-Bello, was the cynosure of all eyes at the proceedings of Ogba Magistrate Court, Ikeja, Lagos, on Monday for the wrong reason.
She was arraigned along with her husband, Kehinde Oloyede Bello (aka) JJC Skillz, by the Lagos State government for violating the social distancing directive for the containment of Coronavirus pandemic in contravention of Regulations 8 and 17 of Infectious Disease Regulations 2020.
The legal action followed the spontaneous public opprobrium that greeted the release on the social media of a video footage of an in-house birthday party she organized in honour of hubby, who turned 43, in flagrant disobedience of the governor’s directive on restriction of social gathering above a maximum number of 20 persons.
Both of them pleaded guilty to the offence and were accordingly sentenced by the magistrate in line with the penalty spelt out in the Regulations. The Regulations prescribes a jail term of one month or N100, 000 fine or both for anyone found flouting the lockdown order.
The presiding magistrate, Mrs Aje Afunwa, in her judgment, ordered the couples to pay a fine of N100, 000 each and then proceed on self-isolation for the prescribed 14-day period, after which they would do a community service for two weeks to serve as a deterrent to others.
Magistrate Afunwa further directed them to compile the names and mobile numbers of everyone who attended the party and submit the same to the court.
Presumably, the isolation period is already running its course. Even then, neither the plea nor conviction by the court has quelled the outrage of anger that has continued to trail the unruly behaviour of the couple. And it is understandable. For one, owing to its strategic importance as a major entry point into the country, Lagos is the epicentre of the pandemic with an alarming increase in the number of confirmed cases.
Concerned residents could, therefore, not hide their indignation, knowing full well the danger of a little further spike in the incidence of the dreaded disease through contact. The presence of Naira Marely, who just returned from the UK, further raised the general apprehension. The rest is with the concerned authorities. As the Magistrate demands, they may need to explain to Nigerians how the invited guests beat the lockdown order placed on Lagos, Ogun, as well as Abuja to get to the venue of the party, what their health status is and their travel history.
Being celebrity artistes that they are, Akindele and her husband have defaulted in their social responsibility as a vehicle for information dissemination on the importance of social distancing, which the authorities at all level have been preaching as a potent measure to prevent further spread of the disease. For choosing the line of irresponsible behaviour, Funke, who had been engaged as brand ambassador of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and Dettol to take the message of social distancing and personal hygiene to the grassroots to combat the pandemic, would live with the albatross far into the future.
She said she had no intention of misleading the public. Who will believe her? How will she correct the bad impression that has already gone viral on the social media? As some legal experts have already noted, unless she appeals the judgment to vacate the sentence, it would be difficult for her to secure such engagement from either the government or private companies for lack of trust and credibility.
According to them, since she has been charged and convicted based on a criminal charge, rightly or wrongly, she would forever remain a convict. The rest is history!
Funke Akindele, who was born on August 24, 1977, in Ikorodu, Lagos State, is a Nigerian actress and producer. After her elementary education, she obtained an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in Mass Communication from the Ogun State Polytechnic, now Moshood Abiola Polytechnic. Funke featured in the sitcom: I Need to Know from 1998 to 2002. In 2009, she won the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a leading role. She also played the lead character in Jenifa’s Diary, for which she was named Best Actress at the 2016 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards. She made her directorial debut in 2019 political drama film Your Excellency.