Wasted Years Inmate freed after 10 years in prison awaiting trial

After spending 10 years in prison while awaiting trial, a man who was accused of stealing a phone has regained his freedom.

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A commercial motorcyclist popularly called 'Okadaman', Kazeem Sani, has cause to thank God after a Lagos State High Court sitting in Igbosere, freed him from the Kirikiri Medium Prison after spending 10 years awaiting trial over a phone theft, Punch reports.

Also Read: "NHRC: '70% of Nigerian prisoners awaiting trial' – Human Rights Commission"

Sani who was 24 at the time he was incarcerated, was accused of stealing a mobile phone valued at N18,000, and 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 and was remanded in prison custody after he could not meet his bail conditions.

Respite came the way of the Ore, Ondo State indigene, when the Lagos State Office of the Public Defender (OPD), waded into his case and secured his release after no witness showed up for the case during the period, especially after the matter got to the high court in 2013.

An official of the OPD said:

“Sani 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.”

Sani who expressed his shock at his release, said he just got married and that his young wife was pregnant at the time he was incarcerated.

Court documents revealed that Sani and two others, Ezekiel Oriyomi and Bashiru Olaide, were arraigned for robbery and according to police record, 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 in maintaining his innocence, Sani said 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.”

Sani said he and the two other men were later arraigned at the Ikeja Magistrate’s Court and they were admitted 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.

Also Read: "Jungle Justice: Phone thief stripped naked in Abeokuta"

“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.

The two other suspects stopped showing up in court while I was being taken to court without trial.

There was no witness in the case and going to court became just 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,” the elated Sani said.

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