A Judge of the Lagos State Special Offences Court sitting at Oshodi on Thursday dismissed the case between the Attorney General of the State and five persons with disabilities who were arrested for protesting the restriction of Keke last Tuesday.
The five defendants; Yinusa Mohammed, Mustapha Bello, Shehu Isa, Abubakar Umar and Muhammed Zanna were arrested during a protest at the Government Secretariat last Tuesday against the restriction of Keke and its effects on persons living with disabilities in the state.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported how about dozens of persons with disabilities stormed the government house demanding an audience with Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State governor over how the policy has heightened the sufferings of PLWDs who have found a means of survival through Keke riding, as well as a means to commute themselves.
Rather than address the protesters, some of their leaders were arrested by officers of Area F of the Lagos State Police Command.
The Physically Challenged Empowerment Initiative (PCEI), Justice and Empowerment Initiative (JEI) and the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation while condemning the arrest of the persons said it was a violation of the rights and demanded their release.
The Arrest and Prosecution
Mohammed Zanna, one of the arrested Protesters told PREMIUM TIMES that officers from Area F made the arrest around 3 am on Wednesday after several attempts to disperse the crowd using tear gas.
“They denied arresting us because they handed us over to the mobile court and it is only the court that has our record. When they first took us to the station, they said it was an order from above. Initially, they convinced my colleagues that they wanted to settle and negotiate and that was why they brought us there, so others left.”
Mr Zanna said they were kept at the Area F station till morning, before they were arraigned at the mobile court around 11 a.m. that same day.
“We were able to facilitate our bail around 5-6 p.m., we could have been in Kirikiri if not for the help of our lawyers.”
Each of the defendants was released on a N10, 000 bail bond with one surety in like sum, Mr Zanna said.
He added that the security guards hired to protect the PLWDs were the first to be arrested and released on N50, 000 bail bond and a surety in like sum.
Bala Elkana, the Lagos police spokesperson and Gboyega Akosile, the Chief Press Secretary to Mr Sanwo-Olu earlier denied the arrest of the protesters, saying they were “unaware” of any arrest.
At the adjourned hearing of the case on Thursday, both the arresting officers and prosecution counsel were absent.
Mariam Alo, the counsel to the defendants, told the judge that aside from a copy of the charge sheet which the defence received from the police, there was no other evidence or proof that the defendants had done anything.
PCEI, JEI and the Nigerian Slum Federation had earlier said the arrested persons were arraigned on frivolous charges.
Mrs Alo told the court to consider the defendants’ status as they are physically challenged and they need to quickly dispense the business of the day. Given the absence of the prosecution counsel, she prayed the court to strike out the case for lack of evidence.
In her decision, the judge said the case is “struck out for lack of diligent prosecution.”
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