By Osaigbovo Iguobaro, Benin
The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) has described the setting up of Mobile Courts by Edo State Government in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus as violation of human rights of people struggling to survive the economic hardship.
Mr Mathew Edeghese-led NBA Benin Committee, in an interim report sent in Tuesday, the 27th of April, indicted the government and accused the governor of been insensitive to the plights of its Citizens.
The report said that the mobile courts treated residents of the state inhumanly and issued fines that were both high and in contravention of the limit set by the laws.
It said in the report: “The Committee observed that persons were asked to sit on the bare floor. The Committee questioned the propriety of such inhuman treatment and asked why they were not given chairs to sit on as they were not criminals. The restrictions were released thereafter.”
In an observation that brings into question the integrity and motive of the government’s mobile court officials, the committee also recorded cases where residents were arrested even though they had the recommended face masks – and the imposition of fines that far exceeded what was recommended, pointing out a possible case of sanctioned extortions.
“The Committee observed in some cases that indicted persons had face mask, they just did not wear them and were arrested. The Committee frowns at the arresting of citizens that have face masks and demands that forthwith they should not be arrested but asked to wear them.”
“The Committee states that the fines being imposed by the Moblie Courts are obnoxious ranging from Three Thousand Naira to Five Thousand Naira. The Committee condemns the Commercial Nature of the Mobile Court and asks it to stick to the 200 naira the Officials indicated earlier they fine Citizens.”
To further make the case of the inhumanity displayed by officials of Obaseki’s mobile court, the committee cited the instance of a case involving one Blessing Igbinosa who was arrested and fined despite the fact that she had an emergency that was verified.
“Out of pity, the Committee admitted to paying the fine of the woman and criticized the officials for their cruel conduct even as the government failed to provide residents with the face masks.
According to the Committee, “the majority of the indicted citizens are the poorest of the poor who couldn’t afford the obnoxious fines and were thus detained for hours, in addition to being asked to carry out grueling community service.
“This echoes earlier criticism of the government’s enthusiasm to set up courts to try and deliver harsh judgment on the people even though it has fallen short in its own responsibility to provide basic needs and protective equipment for the people”, the report said.