Nigeria: Court Decision Against Alleged Homosexuals 'Failure of Justice'

Wooden gavel
29 October 2020

A Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday struck out the charges against the defendants, citing lack of "diligent prosecution" on the part of the prosecution.

"For whatever reason, the prosecution is no more capable or not willing to prosecute this case," Judge Rilwan Aikawa said in his ruling.

But TIERs in its reaction after the ruling said it was disappointing that the judge struck out the case, instead of dismissing it.

"A dismissal means that the individuals are free of all charges and the case can't be brought up again in any court of law," the group said in a statement.

"However, a strikeout means that they are free to go away now, but the police can arrest them again anytime in the future on these same charges."

A dismissal means that the individuals are free of all charges and the case can't be brought up again in any court of law.

However, a strike out means that they are free to go away now, but the police can arrest them again anytime in the future on these same charges (3/5)

- The Initiative for Equal Rights (@TIERsNigeria) October 27, 2020

Since it was found that the Prosecution lacks evidence for the crimes alleged, the proper order should have b een a dismissal. As it stands now, we see that the justice system has again failed to mete out justice #AcquitThe57 (4/5)

- The Initiative for Equal Rights (@TIERsNigeria) October 27, 2020

Phidelia Imiegha, the communications manager at TIERs, told PREMIUM TIMES they are exploring "many options right now" that is not specific to an appeal of the ruling, adding that the next step ultimately lies with the defendants.

"Although we hoped for a dismissal and got a strike out instead, we are relieved that the innocent men can finally start to move on with their lives and pick up from where it was halted over two years ago. It's important to reiterate that throughout the trial, no single evidence was brought forward by the police."

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 defendants were arraigned in December last year 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.

Before the judge's ruling on Tuesday, Israel Usman, the defence counsel, reminded the court that it was the ninth time the police prosecutor did not show up in court since the case began in 2019.

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