A Magistrate Court in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, has discharged and acquitted four protesters arrested on August 5, 2019 during the RevolutionNow protest.
The court presided over by Magistrate II, Mr. O. A. Onaguruwa, upheld the no case submission made on behalf of the four protesters by Lagos-based lawyer and human rights activist, Inibehe Effiong.
The police had arrested Daniel Abraham, Festus Afofun, Kolawole Seun and Okoro Romeo on August 5, 2019 for protesting during the RevolutionNow march called by detained pro-democracy campaigner, Omoyele Sowore.
The four protesters were subsequently arraigned in court on August 7, 2019 on a three-count charge of conspiracy, unlawful assembly and conduct likely to cause breach of peace.
Ruling on the no case submission on Wednesday, Magistrate Onaguruwa held that the argument of the defendants' counsel, Effiong, that it was not necessary for the defendants to enter their defence in the case cannot be faulted because the prosecution had failed to establish any of the essential elements of the three count charges.
According to the court, the testimony of the prosecution witness as contended by Effiong was not only hearsay and inadmissible based on Section 38 of the Evidence Act, 2019 but was completely discredited under cross examination.
Magistrate Onaguruwa also wondered why the Investigation Police Officer in the case, Inspector Helen, would claim in her evidence that it was against the law for the defendants to have protested without police permit with mufflers and leaflets.
The court relying on the provisions of Section 315 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Ogun State 2017 and decided cases, discharged and acquitted the defendants, given that a discharge in the circumstance amounts to an acquittal.
Responding to the ruling, Effiong commended the magistrate for the well considered ruling and vowed to sue the Nigeria Police Force for violating the fundamentals rights of his clients to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
Effiong said, "Today's ruling is a vindication of our position that the Nigerian Government had no basis in law to have arrested, detained or arraigned citizens who called for revolution during the peaceful protest of August 5, 2019.
"I have consistently said that the whole case is a disgraceful attempt by a failed government to silent voices of dissent.
"This is just the beginning of the end of the symbolic attempt by this regime to deploy the judicial process in a dubious and immoral manner.
"We will continue to defeat the tyranny of the Buhari's regime through the law courts."