Seun Kuti: Absence Of Magistrate Stalls Assault Hearing

The assault case brought by the police against Afrobeat singer Seun Kuti faced a setback at the Chief Magistrate Court in the Sabo-Yaba area of Lagos on Monday. Chief Magistrate Adeola Olatubosun was absent from the proceedings, despite the presence of Kuti, his counsel, and the prosecution team.

It was later discovered that Chief Magistrate Olatubosun was on leave at the time. The parties involved in the case agreed to reconvene on September 27, after the court’s annual vacation, to continue the proceedings.

During the previous court session on May 24, the magistrate denied an application by the Nigeria Police Force to arraign Kuti on charges of assaulting a police officer. Magistrate Olatunbosun adjourned the case until July 3 to await the legal advice from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Kuti had been released on bail on May 23 after being held at the State Criminal Investigative Department, Panti since May 15. The police had intended to arraign him after filing charges against him. However, Femi Falana (SAN), who represented Kuti, urged the court to dismiss the application, accusing the police of disregarding the existing court orders.

Falana strongly objected to the proposed arraignment on two legal grounds. Firstly, he argued that his client was entitled to a minimum of 48 hours’ notice to respond to the charges, as stipulated by Section 82 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos. Secondly, he highlighted that the police’s charges were in contempt of a valid and standing court order issued on May 16.

The May 16 order specified that once the investigation was completed, the prosecution of the case should be transferred to the state government, as the police were not authorized to investigate and prosecute the matter. Falana claimed that the police had blatantly ignored the court’s order.

“Until the court orders are complied with by the IGP, this court can’t entertain the charge from the police.”

“They owe it a duty to disclose to the court why they have overruled this court on the prosecution of this case. There is no appeal against the court’s order. We urge the court to disregard the application of the police, as it is an attempt to treat the court with provocative contempt,” Falana said.

In his response to the senior lawyer’s arguments, the police counsel, Cyril Ejiofor urged the court to dismiss the objection saying that section 23 of the Police Act, 2020, empowers them to prosecute cases and that the Nigeria police cannot wait for the state government, having already sent the case file to them.

“We also rely on last week’s rulings of this Court. We have complied and duplicated this file to the office of the DPP. It is left for them to do their job,
We cannot wait for them.

“We are empowered by law to prosecute all the way to the Supreme Court. Under Section 23 of the Police Act, we have ultimate powers to prosecute which aren’t in conflict with sections 174 and 211 of the Nigerian Constitution, which gives the AG powers to take over any case, but we cannot wait for the state.

“The orders of last week have been vacated and we cannot rely on them as they have no life. Nothing shall apply as a stay of proceedings, not even a pending DPP’s advice. It is unlawful for silk to address the court when a plea hasn’t been taken. We urge the court to order the defendant to take his plea,” Ejiofor submitted.

In her ruling, the magistrate, having issued the previous orders, insisted on awaiting the DPP’s advice before proceeding with the case.

According to the investigating police officer, Lekan Ogundare, Seun Kuti committed the offence of assault on May 13 on the Third Mainland Bridge.

The defendant was said to have driven dangerously on the bridge and deliberately blocked a moving police vehicle.

He is also alleged to have grabbed one Inspector Mohammed Aminu attached to the Police Training College, Ikeja, who was on official movement and in police uniform.

The police also said the defendant slapped the officer several times on his face.