A Chief Magistrates’ Court sitting in the Yaba area of Lagos has dismissed an application by the Nigeria Police Force seeking to arraign Afrobeats singer, Seun Kuti, over alleged assault on a police officer.
Magistrate Adeola Olatunbosun adjourned the case till July 3 to await legal advice from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on the matter.
The musician was in court on Wednesday for the hearing of his case. He was released on bail on Tuesday evening following his detention at the State Criminal Investigative Department, Panti since May 15.
At the resumed hearing of the case, police counsel, Cyril Ejiofor sought the leave of court to arraign the singer, having preferred a charge against him.
But Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, representing the defendant, urged the court to dismiss the application and instead accused the police of disobeying the subsisting orders of the court.
“We have a serious objection to the proposed arraignment on two solid legal grounds; that he 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,” he stated.
“We came here this morning only for the police to say a charge has been filed and most importantly, this charge is contemptuous of the valid and subsisting court order of May 16, that upon the completion of the 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.
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“Also, on the 18th of 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.”
In his response to the senior lawyer’s arguments, the police counsel 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 compiled 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,” the police counsel said.
In her ruling, the magistrate, having issued the previous orders, insisted on awaiting the DPP’s advice, before proceeding with the case.
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The courtroom was packed full, and many observers applauded the court’s decision but the court frowned on the applause and threatened to send those at the gallery out.
Seun Kuti, who was in the dock throughout the proceedings, was also spotted jubilating over the development and turning to look at his wife who was seated, earning another warning from the court.
According to the Investigating Police Officer, Lekan Ogundare, Seun Kuti committed the offence on May 13 on the Third Mainland Bridge.
The defendant was said to have driven dangerously on the bridge and deliberately blocked a moving police vehicle.
He is 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.