A CIVIL rights group, The Initiative for Equal Rights, has sought the dismissal of the criminal case against 57 suspected homosexuals, arrested by the Lagos State Police Command, a year ago, without formal charges, despite five court appearances.
At a press conference Tuesday, the group therefore demanded the freedom of the men, who were arrested on August 26, 2018, at a birthday party in Egbeda area of Lagos, on suspicion that they were being initiated into a homosexual club at a hotel.
The Group Executive Director, Miss Xeenarh Mohammed, told journalists that the 57 men had been branded as homosexuals, criminals, incurring travel and legal costs, while the police, with support from the magistrate, were trading excuses why they had not been charged or acquitted.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Mohammed said, “we got in touch with them and they don’t have legal representatives, and I think that’s also the part of the problems here in Nigeria. If you don’t have money, you cannot buy justice and you are left to rot in jail without help.”
Mohammed called for the case to be dismissed for lack of evidence, and asked the Nigerian Police to apologize to the boys for the brutality and maltreatment they received while in detention.
“They should get the apology that the constitution has guaranteed them and also their freedom,” she said.
The lawyer and lead counsel to the suspects, Oludare Falana, said the police had failed to file any case against the suspects up till date.
According to him, the suspects were detained under Section 264 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Laws of Lagos State pending the outcome of the police’s investigation, adding that the magistrate granted the boys bail and that they were left off the hook at least, temporary.
“It’s been one year exactly, and I can tell you that as at the last time we were in court, not a single charge has been filed against them. I was in court the last adjournment and I tried to move the magistrate to strike out the case because there is no case before the court, but in her wisdom, she said she is going to adjourn again.”
Citing the Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution, Falana said, “if the constitution has guaranteed their freedom of association, freedom to assemble, that fundamentally guaranteed freedom cannot be taken away by anybody. “Anybody can gather, that’s what the constitution says and from the charge that I saw, it was not signed, the Police said they were engaged in cultism and later they said it was unlawful sexual relationship.
“If you are going to charge people to court, you must give us the proof of evidence, the proof of evidence is everything you were able to gather during the cause of your investigation, which informs your decision to charge them to court.
“For now, every other thing as it stands today is in the realm of speculation. These boys have been shown to the whole world as homosexuals, as criminals and all that and at the end of the day, if a state cannot prefer a charge against them in one year, it tells a lot about what has gone wrong in their investigation.
“Secondly, how are you going to make up for this stigmatization? Are you going to take them back on air and say you are sorry, these boys are not homosexuals and therefore we apologize? Are you going to put it in the newspapers? How do you ameliorate their pains in terms of recreating the wrong impressions you have given the whole world?
“Till date, the Police have not been able to come up with anything and that tells us the extent of injustice in our system. I am aware that this will not happen in any clime except Nigeria. And I do not know why our government is not taking things like these seriously.”
Falana lamented that the police were quick to arraign people and do a media trial but that when it comes to the issue of substantiating the allegation against them, “they just go numb, and start foot-dragging and eventually the case will fizzle out.
“These boys are Nigerians, their story has gone viral. They are lucky that they have a voice, what about others who don’t have anyone to speak for them? They die in pain?”