Three Nigerian musicians remanded in prison by Ugandan authorities over COVID-19

By Emeka Nze

Three Nigerian nationals and four Ugandans have been remanded in prison by Ugandan authorities for engaging in an act that is likely to spread an infectious disease.

The three Nigerians are musicians Temilade Openiyi aka Tems, Stanley Omar Didia aka Omahlay and their manager Muyiwa Awoniyi. They are jointly charged with four Ugandans including the organisers of the concert; Kim Salim, Benjamin Kabuura, Phillip Kasakya an events security coordinator and Ivan Ddungu who owns the venue where the concert was held.

The accused were on Monday afternoon arraigned before the Makindye Magistrate’s court presided over by Grade One magistrate Jude Okumu, charged with the offence of doing an act that is most likely to spread an infectious disease.

Prosecution alleges that the accused persons and others still at large, on December 12, 2020, at  Ddungu Resort located in Munyonyo in Makindye Division, held a music concert where the Nigerian musicians performed. In attendance, were more than the permitted 200 people who appeared not to be observing ministry of Health coronavirus guidelines.

All the accused persons denied the charges. Their lawyers led by Emmanuel Muwonge attempted to apply for bail but the state prosecution led by Gertrude Apio requested for more time to respond to the application. Consequently, the magistrate remanded all the five men to Kitalya Government’s prison and the two women to Kigo prison until December 16.

They have also been advised to appear before the High court that day to continue with the application via a video conferencing link that connects to their respective prisons. After the remand pronouncement, the Nigerian artists attempted in vain to resist being handcuffed. Omar who had his phone in his hands in court quickly posted on his Twitter handle “Why am I being detained? Why am I not been given a right to a fair hearing?”

Omar who is one of the nominees for the MTV Mama Awards 2020 set to be hosted in Uganda next year was overheard saying that they had been duped by the organizers that concerts were allowed in the country. Suzie Muwanga a lecturer at Makerere University who is said to be a mother to one of the accused persons was also present in court and was heard cursing government for the arrests.

Trouble for the accused persons started after a selfie photo of Omar went viral on social media showing him performing at the concert as hundreds of supporters cheered him up. The picture stirred anger among Ugandans wondering how foreigners would be allowed to hold concerts in the country when for them they are not being allowed to and have since struggled for survival following the nationwide lockdown.

In the aftermath, police raided their respective lodgings at Speke Resort hotel in Munyonyo and arrested them while Ddungu who was picked at the venue of the concert.

In March 2020, following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, President Yoweri Museveni suspended a number of activities and gatherings. Although some gatherings like religious events were later on permitted to reopen while observing standard operating procedures, bars and music concerts to date have not yet been authorized to reopen.

-The Observer




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