President Buhari's men and their disregard for lockdown order

Given the unprofessional way security operatives have been enforcing the lockdown orders across Nigeria with brute force resulting in the death of more Nigerians than COVID-19 death toll, one would have expected that those who made the order would be magnanimous enough to pretend not to be the law breakers we've known them to be.

That was not the case. In flagrant disregard for President Muhammadu Buhari's order banning movements and large gatherings in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos ad Ogun States, some of the president's aides gathered at the Gudu Cemetery in Abuja on Saturday morning for the burial of Mallam Abba Kyari, Buhari's Chief of Staff who died of COVID-19.

Speaking at a forum in Abuja on Thursday April 2, 2020, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had said families of coronavirus victims would not be allowed to claim their corpses for burial and said such corpses are properties of the Federal Government.

His words: "Nigerians should not forget that this is not the type of corpses that can be claimed for burial because it must be handled by the Ministry of Health.

"It is not a joke; stay at home and stay safe, obey simple instructions of basic hygiene and social distancing, in few weeks, we will resume our normal life."

From the movement of Abba Kyari's corpse from Lagos, where he is believed to have died, to Abuja and his burial at the cemetery, the President's men broke all lockdown rules and the global rules guiding the burial of a COVID-19 victim.

The global rule guiding burial of a COVID-19 victim says the number of people attending the funeral should be restricted to just a few family members who must be mandated to stay at least two-metres away from each other to limit the risk of transmitting the deadly virus.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), at the burial of a COVID-19 patient, "physical distancing measures should be strictly applied (at least two meters between people)."

This rule was violated, from Buhari's aides, to the mourners and onlookers, the crowd at the mosque where his corpse was first taken to, and at the cemetery, was not only too large, they were also lumped together and their action poses great danger to the lives of many Nigerians. It is quite worrisome that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Garba Shehu and other senior officials of government were at the gathering.

What we saw at the funeral of Abba Kyari as shown on Channels Television was a reckless violation of the law and all the people at the gathering, aside those wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) who handled the corpse, must be arrested and prosecuted just like the Lagos State Government made a scapegoat of Nollywood actress Funke Akindele-Bello and her husband Abdulrasheed Bello aka JJC Skillz for hosting a birthday party in their home with a far lesser crowd.

Failure to apply the same measure used in teaching Funke Akindele and JJC Skillz a lesson would further confirm the agelong belief that the Rule of Law is always weak in making the powerful accountable to the law. This writer had posited after the trial of Funke and JJC Skillz that the rule of law should not be a one-edged sword, rather it should be a two-edged sword that does not tilt towards any member of the society no matter the status.

The day-to-day experience of Nigerians continue to bear testament to the fact that the idea that people are endowed with equal rights is false. But on this, the law should be impartially enforced without regard for class and hierarchical entitlements which have eaten deep into our cultural and political systems. Of what use is a law if it cannot make the powerful accountable and protect the poor and powerless?

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