By Davidson Iriekpen
The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday freed 47 alleged homosexuals arraigned by the police in November last year.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa struck out the charges against the defendants, citing lack of diligent prosecution by the police.
The judge noted that the prosecuting counsel for the police, JI Ebhoremen, was, for the umpteenth time, absent from court and gave no reasonable explanation.
The defence counsel, Mr. Israel Usman, had noted that it was the ninth time that Ebhoremen did not show up in court since the case started in 2019.
Usman pointed the judge’s attention to Section 356(5) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 which provided a maximum of five adjournments at the instance of the prosecution in a criminal trial.
“This is ninth adjournment at the instance of the prosecution in contravention of the statutory Act that regulates criminal justice system. We urge the court to dismiss the case and discharge the defendants,” the defence counsel said.
Ruling, Justice Aikawa held, “I agree entirely with defendants’ counsel that the prosecution’s attitude to this case is not satisfactory. In my view, this should not be. If the prosecution has a cogent reason not to be in court, he should have communicated in writing to the court and copy the defence counsel.
“For whatever reason, the prosecution is no more capable or not willing to prosecute this case. Consequently, this case is struck out due to lack of diligent prosecution.”
The 47 defendants were arraigned on one count of “engaging in amorous gay relationship” contrary to Section 5(2) of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013.
The defendants are Segun Ode, 24; Afolabi David, 20; Azeez Tunde, 22; Adedokun Pelumi, 22; Smart Joel; 25, Iyodun Ehiosun, 20; Rilwan Jamiu, 24; and Raphael Matthew ,38.
Also listed as defendants were Chibuike Emmanuel, 23; Prince Collins, 23; Daniel Aya, 22; Alozie Innocent, 21; Kelvin Nwachukwu, 23; Okekoya Gbemi, 33; Odika Emmanuel, 25; Kojo Emmanuel, 27; Adewole Micheal, 27; Alabi Olamilekan, 21; Oluwaseun Odu, 26; and Oladipo Eniola, 24, among others.
All the defendants had pleaded not guilty