A magistrate court judge in Lagos State has granted bail to six supporters of the African Action Congress (AAC).
The Lagos State police command arrested six supporters of the presidential candidate of the AAC, Omoyele Sowore, at the weekend, for allegedly removing the campaign materials of a political party and replacing them with those of AAC.
The spokesperson of the command, Chike Oti, who confirmed the report to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said the suspects were arrested around 2.30 a.m. by patrol cops around the Ikeja area of the city.
Reacting to the arrest, Mr Sowore, who is in the United States for campaign and fundraising, on Monday, took to his Facebook page and called out the Lagos commissioner’s act as shameful, adding that the police boss’ motive was to retain his ‘commissioner’ position.
”Lagos Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgar, hasn’t learnt from history. Police officers doing dirty jobs for parties in power will ultimately end in ignominy,” Mr Sowore said.
“This is the despicable propaganda being churned out by CP Imohimi Edgar to cover up his partisanship in Lagos. I learnt recently that he is doing everything he can to retain his commission in Lagos.
”So he needed to show loyalty to his APC lords by framing our party members,” he added.
However, the arrest took a different turn when the ‘Take It Back’ civil society organisation and members of the AAC party took to the street and led a peaceful protest outside the Area F Police division in Ikeja to demand the release of those arrested.
In a statement by AAC media and communications officer, Rachel Onamusi-Kpiasi, on Monday, the party said the police teargassed and arrested members of the ‘Take It Back’ and the AAC at a peaceful protest to demand the release of their members that were arrested on Sunday.
According to Ms Onamusi-Kpiasi, ”the protest was in response to the six ‘Take It Back’ supporters who were arrested during the early hours of Sunday.
Reacting to the arrest, the Lagos State Police Command’s spokesperson, Chike Oti, said the alleged actions of supporters of Mr Sowore, runs foul to the Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA) laws which forbid advertisers from pasting posters at any other hours than during the daytime.
“The CP has directed that the suspects be charged to court on Monday for malicious damage and conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace to serve as a deterrent to others,” he said.
At the ruling, the six AAC supporters pleaded not guilty to the three-count charge levelled against them; which are – “conspiracy to commit felony to with criminal damage to property, criminal damage to property of Jimi Agbaje by tearing up his campaign posters on Awolowo House Fence and breach of peace by tearing campaign posters of other political parties and replacing them with AAC presidential campaign posters”.
The defence counsel, Taiwo Olawale, told the court that the members of the AAC were only pasting posters at night.
Mr Oladele said because the party is not a major party, the police is using the instrument of the state to harass them.
Objecting, representative of the commissioner of police, D. Raphael, told the magistrate that the suspects where indeed caught in a criminal act, “which will be determined in trial.”
The judge, in her response, after hearing statements from both the prosecuting and defence counsels, said the offence was a bailable one.
“This court is not ready for any trial. This is a bailable offence. I hereby grant bail in the sum of fifty thousand naira each, with one responsible surety”.
Speaking after the court’s decision, Mr Olawale said “the court, in its wisdom, has determined the offence that the police is alleging, is a bailable offence and we will perfect their bail conditions.
”The ruling party is always in the habit of oppressing young opposition parties. They know what Mr Sowore could do, that is why the federal government is coming with all this harassment and we believe by February, Mr Sowore is going to be declared as president, so, this intimidation and harassment cannot work.”
The prosecuting counsel, however, declined to comment after the hearing was adjourned to February 4.