Some legal practitioners have reacted to the conviction of popular Nollywood actor and producer, Funke Akindele, popularly known as “Jenifa.”
Recall that Akindele was arrested by the Lagos State Command for defying the social distancing order after she organised a house party.
Following the lockdown, Akindele and her husband, JJC Skills were arraigned on a one-count Criminal Charge of flouting the Social Distance Directive, contrary to Regulations 8 and 17 of the Lagos State Infectious Disease Regulations, 2020
The regulations prescribed a jail term of one month or N100,000 fine or both for persons found guilty of hosting gatherings or flouting the lockdown order.
Both Akindele and her husband pleaded guilty to the one-count charge.
In her judgment, Mrs Aje Afunwa of the Magistrates’ Court ordered them to pay a fine of N100,000 each.
Afunwa also ordered that the couple be placed in self-isolation while names and mobile numbers of everyone who attended the party be compiled and submitted to the court.
Against this backdrop, there have been controversies on whether Akindele and her husband are now ex-convicts.
Ochogwu, however, counseled the celebrity artistes to appeal the judgment.
“Whether it was a Civil offence or not, she has been charged and convicted based on a Criminal Charge rightly or wrongly. As far as the Judgment and her Conviction stands, she is a convict. She could only appeal and set aside. I am however of the view that the sections of the law under which she was charged did not prescribe the offence of flaunting the Social Distance Directive of the Governor.
“Those sections only empower the Governor to make regulations. The Regulations of the Governor in itself is not an offence. It is at best a disobedience of the Governor’s directive which l believe is not Criminal. That judgment cannot stand on Appeal.”
Also speaking, Barrister Paul Edeh stated that Akindele was arraigned on a criminal charge, hence she is an ex-convict.
Edeh also stated that the actress and her husband could appeal the ruling on the ground that they were coaxed into pleading guilty.
According to Edeh: “The law prescribes an offence and the punishment for it. That is what makes it a criminal law.
“There are several grounds she can appeal the case if she can prove she was coaxed into pleading guilty.
“In my opinion, she must have been told to go to court and plead guilty and that they will merely ask her to pay the fine. She actually did not understand the extent or implication of a conviction.”
On his part, Barrister Chukwudi Iwuchukwwu pointed out that the ruling may likely affect the celebrities’ opportunity of traveling out of the country or bagging some business deals in the near future.
“The sad reality about this Funke Akindele drama is that just like that, she is now a convicted criminal.
“Tomorrow while applying for foreign Visa or if she wants to contest for any political office, she must state that she has a criminal record which is a big taint and this alone might deny her those opportunities.
“With the criminal conviction, no brand worth the salt will come close to her to do business together going forward.
“This is a lesson to the younger generation to do better, always be guided and never allow a lapse of judgment to ruin a bright future. It is well with her!”