After spending about one year and two months illegally in prison, Seyi Awobola, arrested and accused by the police of burning down buildings in the violence that ensued days after the protest against police brutality in 2020 has become a free man.
Mr Awobola at a press conference in Lagos on Friday said “he was labeled an #EndSARS protester and treated with disdain following his arrest”.
Lagos was ravaged by hoodlums in the days after the #EndSARS protest, leaving many parts of the state with burnt buildings, looted shops and destroyed properties.
Many believe the largely peaceful protests were infiltrated by hoodlums sent to tar the process with violence.
Following the unrest, the state Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, announced a 24- hour curfew.
The resident of Ajegunle, Lagos, regained his freedom on Wednesday, 14 months after he was arrested illegally at CMS while coming from the Lekki tollgate on October 21, 2020, in the company of a friend.
He said he was arrested and ended up at the Ikoyi Maximum Prison “while his friend escaped”.
According to a lawyer and former chair of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja branch Adeshina Ogunlana, Mr Awobola was charged with arson, riot and disobedience to lawful order – curfew according to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mr Ogunlana said.
Mr Ogunlana said the first two charges were withdrawn by the DPP after his client had spent 11 months incarcerated.
He said they retained one count against Mr Awobola – disobedience to a lawful order.
The offence attracts three-month jail term but the 28-year-old had already spent 11-months in the prison, Mr Ogunlana said.
He said that his client’s case was adjourned till January 26, 2022, “but he applied for another day in the 2021 calendar.”
He said on the adjourned day, the prison officials said they had no van to bring him to court.
“There was nothing we could do, we had to wait for an additional two weeks, eventually our application was accepted and the magistrate granted bail,” Mr Ogunlana said.
“We were happy, we thought it was over. We don’t know (that) we had started. To perfect the bail, it was not easy…when it was perfected the warrant of release was signed. We told the parents, everybody was happy.
“We went to prison…prison said no, we can’t release him, he had a matter in the high court. I said he was never arraigned before the high court, they said no.”
He said he told them that the matter had been withdrawn but his client wasn’t released.ⓘ
He explained further that the DPP filed a “notice of discontinuance of case” but he (client) was still not released.
Mr Ogunlana said the government would be sued for gross breach of his client’s fundamental human rights.
He lamented the Nigerian government had no regard for equity.
Mr Awobola said he was just a passerby at CMS in the company of his friend on October 21 when he was picked up.
Recounting his journey to prison, he said after his arrest he was taken to “Lion’s Building” where he spent a week and was later transferred to Panti in Yaba.
He said Nigeria’s correctional centre ought to be renamed “corruptional centre” adding that it is a place that hardens the innocent and criminals.
“No food, no water, no means of communication until the day they took us to the police command to see the commissioner of police,” Mr Awobola said.
“He said they should release every #EndSARS protester but on getting to the station, they never did what the commissioner said.
“They were even making jest of us in the station calling us ‘soro soke were’.
“The food that served us in the prison would never be accepted by animals. My family was feeding me.”
He said he had spent about a week before his family knew his whereabouts.ⓘ
“I chatted with a celebrity secretly with my phone. And it went viral on the internet,” he said. (PREMIUM TIMES)