FOUR #EndSARS protesters have had charges brought against them by the federal government quashed today by an Abuja high court which rules that they had a constitutional right to engage in peaceful protest.
In November last year, the police in Abuja had arrested six protesters as they peacefully demonstrated along with many others in front of the National Assembly complex. Today, there were arraigned in court and four of those who appeared had the charges against them dismissed.
This morning, in its ruling, the chief magistrate’s court in Wuse Zone 2, Abuja, gave an order terminating the case against four of the defendants on the grounds of lack of diligent prosecution of the case by the police. The four defendants identified as Olutosin Adeniji, Abdusalam Zubarur, Paul Akinwumi and Devour Chomo were present, while the two others – Yasidu Bashiru and Kabiru Garzali – were absent.
Defence lawyer, Henry Akwaji, had applied for the dismissal of the case, following the absence of the prosecution team from court. The prosecution was also absent during the hearing of the defendants’ bail application on November 11.
Mr Akwaji said that by virtue of section 351 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, the absence of the prosecution from court showed a lack of diligent prosecution. When asked by the magistrate, Musa Eneye, about the absence of the two of the defendants, Mr Akwaji said they fell ill and were receiving traditional treatment in Kaduna.
Responding, the magistrate noted that there was no medical report to support the claim of ill health status of the two defendants. he thus dismissed the charges against the present four and adjourned the case of the remaining two defendants till March 24.
Mr Akwaji added: “The police dumped the first information report on the court. Having abandoned and neglected the case, the magistrate was right to dismiss it. The ruling was based on the law and not on emotion.
Asked about the fate of the two remaining defendants, he said he knows the police will not come to court but when they get to the bridge they will cross it. All the six defendants were arrested by the police on November 8, 2020 while they were demonstrating peacefully at the National Assembly, demanding an end to bad governance and police brutality.
Their demonstration was meant to mark a resumption of the #EndSARS protest which was earlier aborted in October after soldiers opened fire on protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos. Since October, the government has cracked down brutally on anyone involved in the protests.