A motorcyclist, Kazeem Sani, has been set free by a Lagos State High Court sitting in Igbosere, after awaiting trial for 10 years in the Kirikiri Medium Prison.
Sani, 34, who was accused of stealing a mobile phone valued at N18,000, was said to have been arraigned before an Ikeja Magistrates’ Court sometime in 2006 when the incident happened before the case was referred to the high court.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the Ore, Ondo State indigene, was freed after the intervention of some officials of the Lagos State Office of the Public Defender.
An official of the OPD, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no witness showed up for the case during the period, adding that the matter got to the high court in 2013.
“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.”
The official said Sani could not believe he had been set free until he was reassured by court officials to go home. It was learnt that Sani had only been married for one year and his wife was pregnant as of the time of the incident.
Court documents obtained by PUNCH Metro revealed that Sani and two others, Ezekiel Oriyomi and Bashiru Olaide, were arraigned for robbery.
The police, in the three counts, said Sani, and 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.
But the discharged and acquitted Sani told PUNCH Metro that he did not steal the phone.
“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.”
He said the three of them were later arraigned at the Ikeja Magistrate’s Court. He explained that the court admitted them to bail in the sum of N50,000 with two sureties in like sum, adding that while the two other defendants met the bail conditions and were released, he could not meet the conditions and was, therefore, detained.
Sani said he was moved to the Kirikiri Medium Prison where he spent 10 years without trial.
“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,” he added.
He explained that the other suspects stopped showing up in court while he was being taken to court without trial. He added that there was no witness in the case and that going to court became a routine.
“I never believed I would be released. I thought it would be the usual routine, until the DPP’s 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 said.
The Director of the OPD, Mrs. Omotola Rotimi, who spoke through the agency’s spokesman, Adeoba Adeniji-Adele, confirmed the incident, adding that the government planned to reintegrate Sani into the society.