COMPULSORY WEARING OF FACEMASK FOR COVID-19 PREVENTION AND CRIME IN RIVERS STATE
Keywords:Face mask, Covid-19 Pandemic, Criminality, Anonymity Theory.
The Covid-19 disease outbreak took the world unaware and was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020. To prevent the spread of the disease, total lock down was imposed globally. As the disease evolved, the lockdown was gradually eased, and to prevent community spread, compulsory use of facemask in the public space was introduced by government at all levels amongst other preventive measures. The use of face mask has been part of human experiences, as it is worn either for cultural events or for medical purposes. Cultural and medical reasons for masking were acceptable because they performed very important functions of entertainment and social solidarity for the former and protection from spread of diseases for the latter. However, with the compulsory wearing of facemask in the public, the possibility of some individuals taking advantage of this situation to commit crime in Nigeria formed the basis of this study. Using the Anonymity theory of Philip Zimbardo (1969), the study relied on secondary data, and primary data was collected through Focus Group Discussions with security operatives in Rivers state. Thematic and content analysis were used to analyse the elicited data. It is revealed from the study that there were reports of incidents across the world and indeed in Nigeria of criminals who disguised with face mask for Covid-19 prevention to commit crime. The study also revealed that facemask provided incentive for criminality and hinder investigation of crime suspects by law enforcement agents. The study recommends amongst others that government and private institutions should upgrade their surveillance technology since the conventional ones have been proven to performed poorly when face mask for covid-19 prevention is worn.