By Robert Egbe
The Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday struck out the charge of alleged homosexuality filed by the police last November against 47 persons.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa set the defendants free, citing lack of diligent prosecution by the police.
The 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.
The defendants are 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.
Others are 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.
The Police had alleged that the men were being “initiated” into a gay club at the Kelly Ann hotel in Lagos in August 2018.
All the defendants had pleaded not guilty to the offence which carries a 10-year jail term.
They said they were attending a birthday party.
The judge noted that police counsel, J.I. Ebhoremen, was, as he had done repeatedly, abstained from court without valid excuse.
The defence counsel, Israel Usman, had noted that it was the ninth time that Ebhoremen did not show up in court since the case started in 2019.
Usman cited Section 356(5) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 which provides a maximum of five adjournments at the instance of the prosecution in a criminal trial.
He added: “This is ninth adjournment at the instance of the prosecution in contravention of the statutory Act that regulates criminal justice system. We urge the court to dismiss the case and discharge the defendants.”
Ruling, Justice Aikawa held, “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.”