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Nigeria fines and jails coronavirus rule breakers in mobile court

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Nigeria is getting tough on coronavirus rule breakers by fining and sentencing individuals to jail in a new outdoor mobile court in the capital Abuja — steps away from the Supreme Court and National Assembly.

It comes after President Muhammad Buhari signed a new law in January prescribing a six months jail sentence for those disobeying guidelines.

“I think today we had about 46 persons, three were minor and the judge asked them to go and not to comply and the other ones were convicted,” said Attah Ikharo, Chairman, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Covid-19 Enforcement Task Force.

“It’s yielding results and we are not going to give up, we are going to push it hard so that people will be saved from killing themselves.”

But one arrested man seen pleading with Ikharo shows the measures aren’t popular.

“The court sometimes, the court imposes community service on them. It gives a fine, the payment of (a) fine or an option of community service for 2 weeks,” said prosecuting lawyer Udeme Umana.

That’s what the court does but it’s the discretion of the court, the court can send (people) to prison.”

In Africa’s most populous country, face masks are compulsory in public spaces and social distancing is advised.

But these rules are rarely respected.

Nigeria is facing a second wave with more than 140,000 cases and almost 2,000 deaths.

A new variant strain has been discovered in recent months but it is not known if it is more contagious or deadly.

The country is expecting to receive 16 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the Covax programme by the end of the month.

The city’s task force is hoping to establish two more mobile courts by the end of the week as the virus continues to spread.