By Akin Kuponiyi
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has freed 47 alleged homosexual defendants arraigned by the police in November last year before the court.
The presiding Judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa struck out the charges against the defendants, citing lack of diligent prosecution by the Nigerian Police.
Justice Aikawa noted that the prosecuting counsel for the police, J.I. Ebhoremen, has always, been absent from court and gave no reasonable reason for not coming to court.
The defence counsel, Israel Usman,told the court, that it was the ninth time that Ebhoremen did not show up in court since the case started in 2019.
Usman drew 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 negates criminal justice system, consequently I urge the court to dismiss the case and discharge the defendants,”
In his ruling, Justice Aikawa declared that, “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.
All the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge.