Assault: Police lose application to arraign Seun Kuti

A Lagos Chief Magistrate’s Court sitting in Sabo-Yaba, on Wednesday, dismissed an application by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) seeking to arraign the Afrobeat singer, Seun Kuti, for alleged assault on a police officer.

A Lagos Chief Magistrate’s Court sitting in Sabo-Yaba, on Wednesday, dismissed an application by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) seeking to arraign the Afrobeat singer, Seun Kuti, for alleged assault on a police officer.

Chief Magistrate Adeola Olatunbosun dismissed the application and adjourned hearing to July 3,2023, to await a legal advice from the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on the matter.

The musician came to the Chief Magistrate’s court, after he was released on bail on Tuesday, May 23,2023. He had been in detention at the State Criminal investigative Department (SCID) Panti since May 15, 2023.

At the resumed hearing, Police counsel, Cyril Ejiofor, sought the leave of court to arraign the singer, having preferred a charge against him.

But in his response, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), representing the defendant, urged the court to dismiss the application, and accused the Police of disobeying subsisting orders of court.

He said: “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 provision 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 May 18, the court adjourned the case to May 23 for the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP’s) advice.  Until the Inspector General of Police (IGP) complies with the court orders, 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.”

Falana urged the court to disregard the police application, noted that “as it is an attempt to treat the court with provocative contempt. Last week, the 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 an advice on whether to prosecute the case.

“The court also said the police cannot investigate and prosecute the matter, to avoid the perception of bias.”

Responding to Falana’s submission, 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 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.”

The prosecution counsel further said that, “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 learned silk to address the court when a plea hasn’t been taken. We urge the court to order the defendant to take his plea.”

After listening to their argument and submission, the magistrate held that, having issued the previous orders, insisted on awaiting the DPP’s advice, before proceeding with the case.

The courtroom, which was full many observers, applauded the court’s decision, but the court frowned at the applause and threatened to send those at the gallery out.

The defendant, 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 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.

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