The Lagos State government has finally kick-started a process that would see Titilayo Benson, a 38-year-old woman, regain her freedom after a convoluted legal process that had spanned ten years.
Even though she was not convicted, and with the court striking out her case, Mrs Benson spent, at least, six of the ten years behind bars.
The Ministry of Justice, in a statement Thursday, said Mrs Benson’s continued stay in prison was no fault of theirs.
“The attention of the Ministry of Justice, Lagos State has been drawn to the Special Report of February 21st, 2021 with the above headline by the PREMIUM TIMES in respect of the defendant, Titilayo Benson who was charged with the offence of Murder in Charge No. LD/92/13; between State vs. Titilayo Benson,” the ministry wrote in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Kayode Oyekanmi.
“Contrary to the allegations in the online publication, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions carried out all that was required to prosecute the matter but the defendant was never produced from Kirikiri Female Correctional Centre despite series of production warrants to appear at the High Court.”
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mrs Benson has been held in the Kirikiri facility of the Nigerian Correctional Services, without any pending charges against her.
She was first charged to Ebutte-Metta Magistrate’s Court in 2010 for causing the death of her friend, whom she engaged in a fight with.
Although the Magistrate’s Court had no jurisdiction over murder matters, she was remanded at Kirikiri prison where she stayed for several years before she was released on bail, and where she is still being held as at the time of this report.
A murder charge was filed against her at the Lagos State High Court in suit number LD/92/13, but she was never presented at the High Court, although she kept appearing before the magistrate.
The judge, Obayomi Taiwo, struck out the matter against Mrs Benson saying “There is no indication that the defendant is in prison custody as she has never been produced since the information was filed in 2013. I, therefore, strike out this case for want of diligent prosecution.
Lagos responds to PREMIUM TIMES’ report
Reacting to PREMIUM TIMES’ publication, the Lagos Ministry of Justice said the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on April 20, 2012, issued a legal advice after receiving the case file.
“The defendant was charged to the High Court on the 22 March 2013 before Hon. Justice O. Taiwo for prosecution.
“During the pendency of the matter, the defendant was represented in court by one C.K Emele on 2 November 2016 and 1 March 2017 by one O.E. Ashade, yet the defendant remain unproduced in court despite several production warrants issued to produce her,” the ministry said.
The ministry said although lawyers represented Mrs Benson at the High Court, they had no interaction with her.
The ministry added that it is ready to “explore plea and sentence bargain in the matter, given the gravity of the offence alleged against the defendant and the length of time spent in custody.”
PREMIUM TIMES obtained a copy of the letter addressed to Francis Akinlotan, Mrs Benson’s lawyer, through the office of the Lagos State Attorney-General.
“We are mindful that the matter was struck out due to non-production of the defendant from custody and this Office has applied to re-list the matter.
“However, considering your appeal to consider the release of your client based on time spent in custody, I am directed to inform you that the Hon. Attorney General is willing to concede to a plea and sentence bargain for the offence of manslaughter and time spent as a sentence,” the letter partly read.
Mr Akinlotan and Rose Obakpolor, the lawyers representing Mrs Benson, said she has agreed to the plea and sentence bargain and other processes will follow to ensure her release.
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