President Muhammadu Buhari and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha have been dragged to court, for allegedly violating the regulations and protocols for the COVID-19 pandemic during the burial of the late Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari.
The plaintiffs in the case are the Chairman of the Bwari branch of the Nigerian Bar Association in Abuja, Mr Clement Chukwuemeka, Olalekan Oladapo and Raphael Ogbe – as well as a civil society group, Wheel of Hope Human Rights Foundation.
The suit marked FHC/ABJ/462/2015 was filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja on April 30, with the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the Ministry of Information joined as co-defendants.
According to the plaintiffs, the handling of the burial of the presidential top aide violated the COVID-19 Regulations issued by Buhari and the guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation and the NCDC.
It would be recalled Kyari, 67, had died of complications related to the COVID-19 on April 17 and was buried at the Gudu Cemetery in Abuja the next day.
The burial, which drew a large crowd, including top government officials who reportedly failed to observe the recommended social distancing measures, was widely condemned by Nigerians.
The widespread condemnation of the handling of the burial forced members of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 to apologise for the breach of the regulations and protocols at the burial.
The plaintiffs also alleged that Buhari, Mustapaha, who is the Chairman of the PTF and other defendants failed to ensure public safety during the burial.
They further alleged that the defendants also failed to abide by the provisions of the law and guidelines in respect of COVID-19 lockdown, stressing that they endangered people in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, by their action.
The plaintiffs also cited the case of Lagos-based actress, Funke Akindele, and Abdulrashid Bello who were arrested, prosecuted, fined N100,000 each by the court and given 14 days’ community service for violating the stay-at-home and social distancing orders in Lagos.
They noted that over 1,000 persons had been arrested and tried in the FCT, for similar breaches, insisting that “Nigerians expect that having used certain persons as scapegoats, no one should be spared and no one is a sacred cow.”
The plaintiffs queried why Kyari’s corpse “was released to his family for burial in the first place, contrary to the claim by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at a forum organised by the News Agency of Nigeria on April 3.”
They quoted the minister to have said that “bodies of COVID-19 victims cannot be claimed for burial/internment due to their contagious nature’.”