Emmanuel Thomas, Wednesday, May 24, 2023
YABA, Lagos – Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, the human rights lawyer, representing Afrobeat singer, Seun Kuti and representatives of the Nigeria Police Force clashed in court today following prayers by the police to rearraign the singer in the absence of advice from the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP.
Notwithstanding the verbal clash, Chief Magistrate Adeola Olatunbosun dismissed the application filed by the Nigeria Police seeking to re-arraign Seun Kuti for slapping a police officer on the Third Mainland Bridge.
She thereafter adjourned hearing to July 3 to await a legal advice from the Office of the DPP.
Seun Kuti was released on Tuesday and came to court in company of his wife from home.
At the resumed hearing, police Counsel, Cyril Ejiofor had sought leave of court to re-arraign the singer, having preferred a charge against him.
But Femi Falana representing the defendant urged the court to dismiss the application, accusing the Police of disobeying subsisting orders of the court.
“We have a serious objection to the proposed arraignment on two solid legal grounds; my client is entitled to at least 48 hours notice within which to answer to the charge, by virtue of section 82 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos.
“We came here this morning only for the police to say a charge has being filed and most importantly, this charge is contemptuous of the valid and subsisting court order of May 16, that upon the completion of investigation, the prosecution of the case is to be transferred to the state government, as police can’t investigate and prosecute the case.
“But, the police in total defiance, ignored the order of the court. Also, On the 18th May, the court adjourned the case to May 23 for the DPP’s advice.
“Until the court orders are complied with by the IGP, this court can’t entertain the charge from the police. They owe it a duty to disclose to the court why they have overruled this court on the prosecution of this case. There is no appeal against the court’s order. We urge the court to disregard the application of the police, as It is an attempt to treat the court with provocative contempt”, the SAN posited.
Last week, the same court had delivered two rulings ordering the police to duplicate the case file and forward it to the Office of the DPP at the Lagos Ministry of Justice for DPP advice on whether to prosecute or not.
The court also said the police cannot investigate and prosecute the matter, to avoid the perception of bias.
Counsel to the police however urged the court to dismiss the objection saying that section 23 of the Police Act, 2020, empowers them to prosecute cases, and that the Nigeria police cannot wait for the state government, having already sent the case file to them.
“We also rely on last week’s rulings of this court. We have complied and duplicated this file to the office of the DPP. It is left for them to do their job. We cannot wait for them. We are empowered by law to prosecute all the way to the Supreme Court.
“Under Section 23 of the Police Act, we have ultimate powers to prosecute which aren’t in conflict with sections 174 and 211 of the Nigerian Constitution, which gives the AG powers to take over any case, but we cannot wait for the state.
“The orders of last week have been vacated, and we cannot rely on them as they have no life.
Nothing shall apply as a stay of proceedings, not even a pending DPP’s advice. It is unlawful for Silk to address the court when a plea hasn’t been taken. We urge the court to order the defendant to take his plea.”
In her ruling, the magistrate, having issued the previous orders, insisted on awaiting the DPP’s advice, before proceeding with the case.
According to the investigating police officer, Lekan Ogundare, Seun Kuti committed the offence on May 13 on the Third Mainland Bridge and that the defendant drove dangerously on the bridge and deliberately blocked a moving police vehicle.
Seun Kuti was also alleged to have grabbed one Inspector Mohammed Aminu attached to the Police Training College, Ikeja, who was on official movement and in police uniform. The police also said the defendant slapped the officer several times on his face, even when the officer did not retaliate.