- The law must come down hard on Naira Marley and associate
Hip-hop artiste Azeez Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley, had no compunction going on social media to style himself an outlaw – as though that were a badge of honour.
But he is also restlessly pushing the frontiers of his bohemianism into constituting a ring fight with law, order and societal norms of decency. Sadly, there is an impressionable lot among Nigeria’s youthful population that he is inspiring.
The 26-year-old tangled again with the law penultimate weekend when he travelled from his base in Lagos to stage an open concert in Abuja, in violation of government restriction on inter-state travel and besides subsisting ban on public gatherings necessitated by the social and physical distancing protocol of the COVID-19 pandemic battle.
It wasn’t his first time flouting the restrictions.
On April 6, he was at a crowded house party hosted in Lagos by Nollywood actress, Funke Akindele, to mark her spouse’s birthday In the early days that social gatherings were forbidden (they still are). Marley was taken to court by the Lagos State government, just as his hosts. He got off the hook by striking a deal to restitute and henceforth be of good behaviour.
But he hasn’t by any stretch lived up to that commitment. At the last instance, he not only flouted the social distancing rule but also violated travel ban – going from Lagos for a live musical performance at the Jabi Lake Mall in the federal capital.
The impunity entailed in that incident has left federal authorities hugely embarrassed, and businesses involved in facilitating the show under government hammer. Jabi Lake Mall, where many lawful enterprises ply their trade, has been sealed off while Executive Jets Services, operator of the flight that took Marley and his crew to Abuja, has its operations suspended indefinitely. “We will also fine them maximally according to the law,” aviation minister Hadi Sirika said.
Other circumstances of the Abuja concert underscored the crying impunity of the whole incident. With aviation services currently suspended in the country over the COVID-19 pandemic, except by special exemptions for essential purposes, the flight that Marley and his gang boarded to Abuja was appropriated from an approval given for a flight to convey a serving judge from Lagos to Abuja, and back, on official assignment.
Executive Jets boss Sam Iwuajoku explained that the judge reported having found an alternative; and that when he was confronted with another request by a set of clients, he mistook the name on the list for works and housing minister Babatunde Fashola, and gave the nod for the group to be conveyed to Abuja.
Marley has since rejoined that it was his brother’s name indicated on the list as Moshood Babatunde Fashola and his own name as Azeez Adeshina Fashola.
There is acute laxity obviously in the flight operator’s processes of verifying the manifest. But that isn’t the big issue.
That Marley and his gang successfully commandeered the flight speaks to how random exceptions being made by government for select persons to fly around amidst the COVID-19 lockdown is prone to abuse.
Government says it gives special permits only for essential purposes, but its officials, including low-level Presidency staff, are known to have enjoyed exemptions, whereas the bulk of the citizenry is grounded from travelling, purportedly in a bid to flatten the COVID-19 infection curve.
Despite the Abuja event running flagrantly against the law, Marley and his friends made no effort at modulating the publicity.
Both the artiste and the event anchor, ex-Big Brother Naija housemate Kim Oprah, shared videos of themselves inside the private jet en route Abuja and upon arriving in the federal capital.
The event itself was advertised by the organisers, though they touted it as a ‘drive-through’ concert. How more frontal can challenge to subsisting order be?
Considering the strong influence of Marley on his fans, it is important that he and associates are brought to book for this impunity, to dissuade followers from emulating his example.