Developing recently, Nigerian musicians Oma Lay and Tems were arrested in Uganda on an alleged breach of C/S 171 of the Uganda Penal code Act.
Unsurprisingly, there has been a public outcry and outpour of sentiments on social media calling on the Ugandan government to secure a release of these artistes simply because they are not the organizers of the show but mere participants.
While I am driven to entertain these sentiments, I refuse to share same. Uganda is a sovereign nation and as such has her corpus juris and legal instruments to regulate conducts within her territory. C/S 171 of the Ugandan Penal Code Act which the Police premised their action unequivocally clears that : “Any person who unlawfully or negligently does any act which is and which he or she knows or has reason to believe to be likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.”
It can be gleaned from the above that it is a punishable offence in Uganda to host a show or any such event that is likely to spread an infectious disease especially in this whirlpool of COVID-19 pandemic.
A fortiori, it is also the tune and tenure of the law that all parties to any offence are criminally responsible for that offence. It is immaterial whether the person is a principal offender or not, participation and involvement is the utilitarian barometer in such case. This is captured in C/S 19 of the Ugandan Penal Code Act. Particularly Section (1) provides :
When an offence is committed, each of the following persons is deemed to have taken part in committing the offence and to be guilty of the offence and may be charged with actually committing it—
(a) every person who actually does the act or makes the omission which constitutes the offence;
(b) every person who does or omits to do any act for the purpose of enabling or aiding another person to commit the offence;
(c) every person who aids or abets another person in committing the
This is what their law contemplates and nothing more pretentious. It’s now highly unacceptable and reprehensible to contend that since they are merely participants and not organizers of the show that the law should not be set in motion against them at all. This doubt is further obviated and demystified by Article 51 of the Ugandan Penal Code 2008. It provides that
“Where more than one person is engaged or concerned in the commission of an offence, each may be guilty of a different offence depending on their individual actions.”
Admittedly, in the instant case, their degree of involvement varries however that will be an issue that will determined by the court at arriangnment and cannot obstruct their arrest. The consensus of plethora of judicial authorities are tilted towards this true reflection of the law.
In a nutshell, having played a part in the offence no matter how insignificant it may seem, they have become parties to the offence and to that end, the actions of the Ugandan Police are legal and constitutional.
In my humble opinion, it’s ripe time for these artistes to seek legal representation in court rather than keep enjoying the sentiments the social media feed them with.
About the Author
MICHAEL ARINZE is a Law Student from University of Calabar and an Entertainment Law enthusiast.