Thursday, 23 April 2020

Bishop,Church Members Arraigned In Court For Protesting At Chinese Embassy In Lagos During Lockdown

A Lagos magistrate’s court sitting in Igbosere, on Wednesday, granted N1 million bail to a clergyman and General Overseer of Resurrection Praise Ministries for Africa, popularly known as Jehovah Sharp Sharp, Archbishop Samson Benjamin, He was accused of violating the COVID-19 lockdown order by President Muhammadu Buhari to curtail the coronavirus pandemic.

Archbishop Benjamin was docked alongside two others, Jerry Abel and Johnson Benjamin, before Chief Magistrate Yewande Oshin. The other defendants were also granted bail in the sum of N500,000 each, with two sureties each in like sum. They are facing a three-count charge of failure to stay at home, violation of lockdown order and conduct likely to cause the breach of peace, preferred against them by the Lagos State government.

The cleric was arrested by the Police on Tuesday and detained at the Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, SCIID, Panti, Yaba. Lagos State prosecutor, Dr. Jide Martins, told the court that the defendants and others at large committed the offences on April 21, 2020, at about 4:30p.m.

He said that the offence took place at the Chinese Embassy, Victoria Island, Lagos.

It was, gathered that the cleric allegedly led about 100 persons to the Chinese Embassy in Victoria Island to protest the ill-treatment of Nigerians in China. The cleric condemned the mistreatment by Chinese despite operating freely in Nigeria. It was also gathered that officials of the embassy sent a video clip of the alleged invasion to the police, which prompted operatives from Victoria Island Division to move to the scene to effect the arrest.

The offence committed, the court said, is contrary to Sections 1(1)(2) of COVID-19 Regulations 2020 and punishable under Section 5 Quarantine Act. Cap. Q2 Vol. 14, law of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, 168(1)(2) and 122, 112, of Criminal law Cap. C17, Vol 3, laws of the Lagos State 2015. The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge against them.

 Their lawyer, E. O. Ogbeche, and two others, pleaded with the court to admit bail to their clients in the most liberal terms, and assured the court that they will attend court proceedings, till the matter is determined. Ruling on the bail application, Magistrate Oshin admitted Archbishop Samson to bail in the sum of N1 million, while the other two defendants were granted bail in the sum of N500,000 each. She also asked the defendants to provide two sureties in like sum, adding that one of the sureties must be a Grade Level 14 officer in the appointment of Federal or Lagos State government, and that the other surety must be a cleric. Oshin ordered the sureties to produce evidence of three years tax payment to Lagos State government, evidence of means of livelihood and that they must be residents of the State.

At press time, the accused were said to be running around to meet the bail terms. However, a member of the prosecuting team said if the defendants failed to meet the bail terms, they may be remanded in prison or police custody pending when they are able to perfect their bail conditions. The case was adjourned till May 20 for mention.

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