By Henry Ojelu
AN Ejigbo Magistrate’s Court in Lagos has discharged and acquitted a 99-year-old man, Raphael Balogun, and five other persons arrested and arraigned by the Police for allegedly damaging properties while protesting the killing of a member of their community, Jude Chimezie, by a policeman.
Vanguard gathered that the late Chimezie was accidentally shot and killed by a policeman, who was trying to broker peace between two youth groups engaged in a fight at a hotel located along Ikotun-Ijegun Road.
The death of Chimezie was said to have provoked some of the youths, as they vandalised properties belonging to the hotel where the policeman was posted as a guard.
The killer policeman, according to Vanguard’s findings, was never apprehended by the Police authorities.
A day after the incident, the Police Area Commander, ACP Akika, was said to have convened a meeting between the aggrieved youths and some community leaders at the hotel where the incident happened.
During the meeting, some youths, Taiwo Abbey, Tochukwu Joseph, Kingsley Abel, Silas Uddo and Ibrahim, as well as the 99-year-old Balogun, were rounded up and arrested, while others escaped.
They were subsequently arraigned on June 4 before Chief Magistrate Oshomode on charges of stealing, conspiracy and vandalising properties worth over N17 million.
In a two-count charge, Police prosecutor, Kenneth Asibor, alleged that the defendants conspired among themselves to damage and steal various items from the hotel, worth precisely N17,439,000.
Items the defendants were alleged to have vandalised during the protest included 55-inch television, fridge, vehicle window screen, Toyota bus, Toyota Camry, AC compressor, tables and chairs.
All the defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the allegation and were granted N10 million bail each with two sureties.
The presiding magistrate had adjourned the matter till July 25, and referred the case file to the office of the Directorate of Public Prosecution, DPP, for legal advice.
A human rights organisation, Know Your Rights Initiative, which undertook discreet investigation into the matter, took up the case and petitioned the Lagos State Ministry of Justice over the matter.
Following pressure from the NGO, a DPP advice signed by Ms T. K. Shitta-Bey, was issued last month exonerating the defendants of the crime for which the Police charged them.
Acting on the DPP’s advice, Magistrate Oshomode discharged and acquitted all the defendants of the alleged crime.
The DPP advice which the magistrate relied upon in discharging the defendants stated that from the Police case file, there was no evidence linking the defendants to the alleged crime.