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How Taskforce ground Lagos mobile court operations, make 40 COVID-19 offenders helpless

By News Desk

No fewer than 40 abroad returnees, who received notifications from Lagos State Government for violating COVID-19 protocol, after returning to Nigeria became helpless at Safety Arena in Oshodi where they were expected to face the Special Offences (Mobile) Court over offence committed but magistrates could not seat due to Lagos State Environmental and Special Offences (Taskforce) directives that grounded the court operations.

As gathered, the COVID-19 violators and other traffic offenders were stranded at the agency’s entrance as a result of Taskforce chairman, CSP Shola Jejeloye, directives to policemen manning the gate that anyone for mobile court should not be allowed into the premises.

Aside, it was also learnt that the mobile court could not seat after policemen attached to the court learnt from officers-in-charge of armoury that the Taskforce chairman had also passed instructions that arms should not be released to the mobile court police team, leading to magistrates inability to conduct sessions.

The abroad returnees, who were expected to appear before the magistrates to determine their fate after being found to have contravened COVID-19 protocol, as well as others but were allegedly turned back by the policemen without any reason for their decisions.

It was learnt that they were left under the scorching sun helpless on Monday at the entrance of the Safety Arena by the policemen acting under the directive of Jejeloye, without any hope of coming in contact with the magistrate that would determine whether they were guilty or not.

Following the restrictions, about two magistrates that were expected to have seats, hear and decide cases of offenders were forced to postpone the seating, pending when the Taskforce would allow them to operate fully within the premises.

The Guild authoritatively learnt that decisions of the chairman to deny the mobile court access to use the premises and other activities were due to the Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s refusal to grant his requests that the mobile court should be placed under him.

His appeal to the governor includes that the mobile court receives directives from his office whenever they intended to embark on any enforcement across Lagos but the request was completely turned down.

When the Guild visited the Safety Arena, activities within the premises were haphazard and findings revealed that the present situations within the Safety Arena were due to Jejeloye’s new directives to the policemen attached to the Taskforce after his request to the governor were ignored.

Sources from the Taskforce that spoke to The Guild hinted that what the agency embarked upon were directives from Jejeloye, and that the instruction had been passed long before now that they prevent the mobile court personnel from using the premises.

The source, who was closer to the Taskforce, added that before now, he and other personnel have been mandated by the chairman to arrest and disarm law enforcement officers attached to the mobile court whenever they sight them across Lagos enforcing the law.

He stated that what snowballed into preventing the hearing of COVID-19 violators cases started several days ago and that it would continue until the policemen receive a contrary directive from the chairman.

Another source from the Taskforce narrated that Jejeloye considered the mobile court as rival and had complained over it at different fora to the executive that they should be mandated to stop.

According to him, all his efforts as well as appeals before the executive, particularly the governor, to stop the mobile court from carrying out enforcement did not yield any result.

Before writing to the governor, another source within the Taskforce later disclosed to The Guild that the chairman had written to the Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Moyo Onigbanjo, and other members of the cabinet that could persuade the Governor Sanwo-Olu to approve his request were not entertained.

Realising that the governor was not going to approve his request, the source hinted that the chairman decided to issue the directives unilaterally and that they have been enforcing the directives since.

For confirmation, The Guild contacted the Coordinator, Special Offences (Mobile) Court, Arinola Ogbara, but she did not respond and Short Messages (SMS) sent to her mobile phone were not replied to.

Speaking to The Guild, the Head of the Public Affairs Unit for Taskforce, Abdul-Raheem Gbadeyan, debunked the allegations and stressed that there is a seamless working relationship between all agencies within the Safety Arena, particularly the Mobile Court.

In an interview with our correspondent, the spokesperson for the Taskforce explained that the personnel attached to the mobile court were deployed from the agency and that they often get a backup team from the agency whenever it is necessary.

Gbadeyan explained that the restrictions at the entrance were to limit the number of foreigners that had violated the COVID-19 protocol put in place by the state government to flatten the virus curve in the state into the premises, saying this is to avoid further spread.

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