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Has Nigeria imposed a N20,000 fine or 6-month jail term for refusal to wear a face mask?

Credit: Quartz 3 mins read

A viral WhatsApp message claimed that the sanction for failing to wear a face mask is an N20,000 fine, 6 months imprisonment or both.

The claim that there is a fine of N20,000 or six-month imprisonment for not wearing a face mask is false. 

Full Text

A WhatsApp message claimed that the use of face masks in public had been made compulsory and that failure to wear face masks is now a criminal offence in Nigeria.

The message urging the public to always go out with their face mask added that this offence attracts a fine of N20,000, six-month imprisonment or both.

Also, a recent Facebook post by Tomiwa Ogunremi repeated the claim even as he admitted the inability to confirm the authenticity of the source.

Verification

First, Dubawa conducted a keyword search on the use of face masks in Nigeria. Then we studied the recent guideline for easing the lockdown by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and that of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). 

COVID-19 and Face masks

Following the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) first reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019, the World Health Organisation recommended the use of face masks. 

The Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC) also recommended wearing face masks in public. 

According to the NCDC, the primary aim of this measure is to prevent infected persons and asymptomatic carriers of the virus from spreading the disease. The centre explained that this measure adds another layer to extant measures such as physical distancing, hand washing as well as respiratory hygiene.

With the continuous rise in the number of cases globally,  some countries have made the use of face masks in public compulsory, but not all countries have attached sanctions like fine and imprisonment to violations. 

Although the wearing of face masks in public in Nigeria was announced as compulsory by the Presidential Task Force [PTF] on COVID-19, no stated sanction was announced. But there were indications in April that hints that the PTF might move in that direction muted when the Task Force claimed it was working on a policy for the mandatory use of face masks. So far nothing to that effect has been released.

Below is a recent guideline by the PTF for the second phase of easing the COVID-19 lockdown.

Conclusion 

The claim that there is a fine of N20,000 or six-month imprisonment for not wearing a face mask is false. 

While the Nigerian Government had made wearing of face masks compulsory, there was no stated sanction such as a fine or imprisonment for defaulters. The only thing mentioned in the PTF guideline is the “no mask, no entry” and “no mask, no service” policy.

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