COVID-19 lockdown violation: Demolished hotel owner, manager convicted by Rivers Court

A Magistrates Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has convicted the owner of the demolished Prodest Hotel in Eleme, Gogorobari Needam and his manager, Bariledum Azoroh over defiance of state government’s COVID-19 lockdown order.

The Court also fined the parties N50,000 each for contravening Governor Nyesom Wike’s Executive Order.

Recall that Governor Nyesom Wike had last week demolished Prodest Hotel in Alode and Etemeteh Hotel in Onne, both in Eleme Local Government Area of the state.

Wike said the hotels were demolished after it violated his Executive Order on COVID 19, despite warnings that banned the operation of hotels across the 23 Local Government Areas of the State.

The Governor had explained that the focus on hotels was because one of the coronavirus cases in the state spread the virus from a hotel.

However, during the Court proceeding, Needam was convicted despite not being present in court,

Delivering her verdict, Senior Magistrate Rita Oguguo, ordered that Azoroh be quarantined at the isolation centre in Yakubu Gowon Stadium, Elekahia for 14 days to ascertain his coronavirus status

She ruled that the accused violated Governor Nyesom Wike’s executive order on closure of hotels in the state as contained in Rivers State Executive order Number 7, paragraphs 3 and 4.

But, earlier before his sentence, Azoroh had insisted on seeing his counsel, Godwin Awi, who was absent in court due to his inability to get an access pass to court following the continued lockdown of Port Harcourt and Obio-Akpor council areas.

While expressing his opinion on Monday, Azoroh lamented that in spite of the plea by his client to get his counsel to defend him, the court went ahead to convict him.

“With what has happened, it is clear that there are other underlying issues that probably we do not know. I do not agree with everything that has transpired today in line with the fact that the Constitution is clear as to the issue of the right to counsel, adequate time and facility for an accused person standing trial to defend himself”

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