Man gets freedom after 9 years in detention without trial

A Lagos State High Court has ordered the release of a 44-year-old man, Muideen Bilau who was held at the Kiri-kiri Correctional Centre for almost a decade without trial.

Justice Ramon Oshodi of the Ikeja Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court, Lagos State, on Friday discharged the defendant of rape charges for want of diligent prosecution, after hearing the application of his lawyers.

Bilau’s freedom follows the intervention of a non-profit organisation, Foundation for Public Interest Law and Development.

Bilau, a native of Oyo State, who was arrested by the police on April 5, 2014 around Igando area of Lagos State over rape allegation, was arraigned at the Ikeja Magistrate District Court on April 14, 2014 and remanded that same day at the Kiri-Kiri Prison.

However, the trial of the detainee could not commence since that time because the prosecution team failed to present any witness at the court. For this reason, the case suffered various adjournments at the instance of the prosecution.

Fortune smiled on Bilau when the foundation intervened in the matter through a team of its lawyers led by Yusuf Nurudeen who tendered an application on behalf of the detainee, seeking his unconditional release from detention.

Other lawyers in the defence team are Kehinde Adeyemi, Adekunle Owolabi and Boluwatife Adegbite.

At the resumption of hearing of the case on Monday, the prosecuting counsel, Inumidun Okeowo informed the court that the matter was slated for commencement of trial but witnesses were not in court.

In his response, head of the defence team, Nurudeen asked the court to strike out the case for want of diligent prosecution, noting that the case had been adjourned on several occasions at the instance of the prosecution.

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He argued that since the defendant was arraigned for a sexual offence before the Ikeja Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court on September 30, 2021, the prosecution had not called any of the 6 witnesses it claimed it had despite the court ordering accelerated hearing and witness summons.

“Upon his arraignment, the court gave accelerated hearing and on June 16, 2022, the prosecution made the same application and on October 14, 2022, the same application was made by the prosecution.

“Our application is that this case should be struck out for want of diligent prosecution and Section 231 (1) gives this court the ultimate power to strike out this case for want of diligent prosecution,” Nurudeen said.

The prosecuting counsel, who could not oppose the application of the defense counsel, said she left the matter to the discretion of the court.

Delivering his judgment, Justice Oshodi struck out the case and discharged the defendant.

Speaking after the ruling, Nurudeen commended the court for granting their application, saying that he was happy that Bilau regained his freedom after suffering incarceration for nine years.

He added that his prolonged detention without trial was unfortunate and represents a violation of his fundamental human rights guaranteed by the constitution.

The Human rights lawyer, who condemned perpetual detention of suspects without trial, said his foundation would continue to use the instrument of law to help those in need find trust and solace in the justice system.

“We are an organisation dedicated to using the full strength of the law to help those in need find trust and solace in the justice system.

“Our thematic areas are legal research, legal education and advocacy on issues of public interest law, access to justice, rule of law, civil rights and development,” he said.

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