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Covid-19: Convicting Driver Violates UNDHR Law, African Charter, Nigerian Constitution, Activist Fumes

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Covid-19: Conviction of Abuja Driver Violates UNDHR Article 25, African Charter, Nigerian Constitution-Activist Fumes

An Abuja Magistrate Court has sentenced a driver, Emmanuel Imhoudu, to six months imprisonment. Mr. Imhoudu is the Abuja driver who flouted the stay-at-home directive of the federal government to curbing the spread of coronavirus thereby complaining of hunger and publicly stripped himself as a sign of protest and resistance.

He was charged on three count offences each of which attracted two months jail terms. Mr, Anjuguri Manzah, FCT Police Command spokesperson, confirmed the conviction to *PREMIUM TIMES* on Thursday, April 16, 2020. The convict was however given an option of N10, 000 fine each of his three offences. In addiction to this, he is to make a public apology on any television network.

Mr. Imhoudu had in a viral video protested the seizure of his commercial vehicle by the FCT COVID-19 Joint Task Force Team, Federal Road Safety Corps and Police, saying he had a family to feed and could not cope with sitting at home. His complaints read in parts:

“I no dey provoke. Wetin I do. I be Edo boy. I get children. I get wife. Na money I dey find, money to chop. No money, nothing, no food. You wan make I carry gun go rob or kidnap”, Mr. Imhoudu said in the video. Adding that “hunger virus” was deadlier than coronavirus. Afterwards, his car was impounded and he was thereafter granted bail.

President Muhammadu Buhari recently extended the lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic by two more weeks after an initial two weeks. The lockdown has caused ripples especially among the poor who find it very hard to fend for themselves.

Reacting on the conviction of Mr.Imhoudu, a human rights activist and author, Comrade Paul Ikechukwu Njoku, lamented that the conviction of Mr. Emmanuel Imhoudu was done in utter negligence for human dignity, livelihood, fundamental rights, insensitivity, baselessness, a crass violation of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in Article 25, a violation of African Charter on Human and People’s Rights in Article 15 and chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“I weep for the insensitivity of the Covid-19 Task Force, Nigeria Police Force and the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government when I read in the media that the Abuja poor taxi driver, Mr. Emmanuel Imhoudu, was promptly arrested and his commercial vehicle impounded by the Police in Abuja whilst quickly charged to court and convicted for using his taxi to briefly source money to feed his poor wife and children amidst the covid-19 lockdown devoid of the basic palliative to cushion his frustration and hunger.

“His arrest and arraignment shouldn’t have been precipitated at all. The operatives should have counselled him and helped him with some money and palliatives as he stripped naked in frustration and in protest for his arrest and impounded taxi. I agree with Mr.Emmanuel Imhoudu that “hunger virus” is worst than coronavirus.

“Are the government stimulus packages and palliatives not supposed to be given to the people like this defenceless and helpless taxi driver? You cannot tell people to stay at home without feeding them. You cannot order individuals whose daily income are punctured without putting food on their tables to stay at home. You cannot compel poor husbands with their poor wives and children to stay at home without paying their bills and give them money to survive. Who are the latent, ghosts and unseen people receiving the imaginary government stimulus packages and palliatives for this stay-at-home order?

“This poor and helpless driver could have committed suicide out of frustration or decided to indulge in a ruthless crime and bloody criminality but he chose to briefly work for his money since the Buhari government could not help him quench starvation and unprecedented hunger ravaging his poor wife and children on daily basis in the house. Of what need should Nigerians die of hunger and starvation for isolating not to be killed by the same deadly coronavirus pandemic?

“The conviction of Mr. Emmanuel Imhoudu was done in utter negligence for human dignity, livelihood, fundamental rights, insensitivity and baselessness. His conviction is a crass violation of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in Article 25 which deals with substantive right to food and others. His sentence in the magistrate court is also a violation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Article 15 and chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Why must Mr. Emmanuel be convicted for a mere proclamation and regulations from the executive arm of government without honest, transparent and proportional palliatives? Has Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria been suspended by the National Assembly especially in reference to Section 33 which deals with right to life and livelihood?

“Has the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to work been suspended by the National Assembly also? Does the Nigerian State not have the obligation to eliminate malnutrition, starvation and provide social security under Article 9 of the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which Nigeria voluntarily ratified since 1993 to provide social security especially for the vulnerable and groups like the driver?

“The Abuja driver, his wife and children are therefore entitled to enjoy right to life under Section 33 of the Constitution and no one can enjoy life right without means of livelihood. The man’s means of livelihood is driving and courts have interpreted Right to work as an integral part of right to life (See Olga Tellis’s Case).

“The right to livelihood is a necessary component of the right to life. This is because, if it is not treated as such, the easiest way of depriving a person of his right to life would be to deprive him of his means of livelihood. The fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution is made in the public interest and cannot be bartered or waived by an executive order, proclamation or regulation. Therefore, Mr.Emmanuel’s case should be discharged and acquitted with apology, money and proportional palliative otherwise I advise his lawyers to as a matter of urgent fact, appeal the decision of the magistrate court in the appellant court for the needful to be promptly done”, Njoku, fumed.

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