The Lagos High Court, Igbosere has set a motorcyclist accused of stealing a phone valued at N18,000 free. Kazeem Sani was freed after he spent 10 years in the Kirikiri Medium Security Prison without trial.
He was first arraigned by the police at the Ikeja Magistrates Court in 2006 before the case was transferred to the Lagos High Court in 2013.
Sani and two others, Ezekiel Oriyomi and Bashiru Olaide, were arraigned for robbery.
The police, in the three counts, said Sani, and the others, on July 7, 2006 dispossessed one Chike of his mobile phone valued at N18,000 at Oluti bus stop, along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Lagos.
The court at that time admitted them to bail in the sum of N50,000 with two sureties in like sum. Sani said that while the two others met the bail conditions and were released, he could not, hence, was detained.
The Chief Judge, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo, struck out the matter following the intervention of some officials of the Lagos State Office of the Public Defender (OPD). The OPD said no witness showed up for the case during the period it was in the High Court.
An official of the OPD who spoke to PUNCH Metro on the condition of anonymity said:
He was arrested in 2006. However, the matter was filed at the Lagos High Court, Igbosere, on March 27, 2013. That means he spent seven years in custody before his case got to the high court.
In the three years that the matter was in court, there was no witness. Three suspects were actually arraigned, but the others secured their bail in 2006 when the incident happened. He also didn’t have any legal representative.
“We were just checking on the cases in court when we came across his matter and we decided to stand for him. Even the court was surprised that he had spent 10 years. We asked the court that the matter be struck out for lack of diligent prosecution and the Chief Judge, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo, struck out the matter.
Speaking to PUNCH Metro, Sani said
I am a tailor by craft, but when I saw that my earnings were not sufficient to cater to the need of my wife, whom I just married, I decided to start riding a motorcycle to augment my income.
While coming from my house at Idi-Iroko, Sango, on July 6, 2006, two men asked me to carry them to Agege. On the way, some officials of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, started flagging me down.
When I stopped, the two men on my motorcycle jumped down and started to run, but they were quickly arrested. I was also taken to the SARS office at Ikeja.
I asked them what my crime was and they said I was among the robbers who always snatched people’s bags. I denied and told them my wife was pregnant and I was just looking for my daily bread, but they refused.
My marriage was barely a year old then. My wife, Amina, was pregnant, and my father, who was aged, lived in Ondo.
When I saw that my incarceration was affecting my wife, I told her to stop coming to see me and use the little she had to take care of herself and the pregnancy. Her parents also promised to assist me in taking care of the child.
Sani said that the other defendants stopped showing up in court while he was being taken to court for years without trial.
“I never believed I would be released. I thought it would be the usual routine, until the OPD lawyer showed up and pleaded for me.
Justice Taiwo queried the prosecutor that I had been in custody since 2006 and she (prosecutor) could not even produce any evidence or witness against me. That was how I was set free,” he added.