By Ben Ezeamalu
A federal court in Lagos Tuesday struck out charges of homosexuality filed against 47 persons in November last year.
Rilwan Aikawa, the judge, said the charges against the defendants lacked “diligent prosecution” by the police.
According to the judge, J.I Ebhoremen, the prosecuting counsel, was, for the umpteenth time, absent from court and gave no reasonable explanation.
The defence counsel, Israel Usman, had noted that it was the ninth time Mr Ebhoremen did not show up in court since the case started in 2019.
Mr 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.
In his ruling, Mr 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.”
‘Amorous relationship in hidden places’
In August 2018, armed police officers stormed a hotel in Egbeda, a suburb of Lagos, at around 2 a.m. and arrested 57 youth for alleged homosexual activity.
According to the then state police commissioner, the youth were performing gay initiation rites for newly recruited members. But those arrested – aged between 20 and 38 – said they were attending a birthday party.
The youth were initially arraigned before a magistrate court in Yaba on three counts of conspiracy, belonging to a secret cult, and unlawful gathering.
In December last year, 47 of them were arraigned before the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on one count of “engaging in public show of a same-sex amorous relationship with each other in hidden places” within a hotel, contrary to Section 5(2) of the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013.
The defendants include 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 of them pleaded not guilty.
At a press conference in Lagos, last year, the lawyer to some of the defendants, Oludare Falana, accused the police of parading the youth before the media and then stalling their trial in court.