After eight days in Police custody, Afrobeats singer, Seun Kuti, last night regained his freedom following the perfection of his bail condition.
Kuti was released at about 7:45pm from the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, Yaba, his abode since his arrest and detention on May 15, after he surrendered himself to the police over an alleged grievous assault on an Inspector on the Third Mainland Bridge, penultimate Saturday.
Announcing his release from police custody on his verified Twitter account, activist Omoyele Sowore, who shared a video of Kuti receiving warm embraces from his supporters, wrote: “Just to announce that @RealSeunKuti has been released from @PoliceNG detention in Lagos. Hasta la victoria siempre!”
The singer’s lawyers, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika (SAN) and Kunle Adegoke (SAN), in an earlier statement assured his supporters that the absence of the Chief Magistrate, Adeola Olatunbosun, would not affect his bail.
They issued a statement following a protest that greeted announcement at the Yaba Chief Magistrates’ Court that proceedings could not be held due to the absence of the Magistrate.
Protesters under the auspices of Youth Rights Campaign (YRC), African Action Congress (AAC), Movement for African Emancipation (MAE), Pan-African Consciousness Renaissance (PACOR), Workers and Youth Solidarity Network (WYSN), Movement of the People (MOP) and allies gathered at the court around 11am yesterday demanding the immediate release of Kuti from police custody.
His supporters also staged protests in Abuja and the United Kingdom, accusing the police and the court of deliberate attempts to keep the singer locked up.
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Bearing placards with inscriptions such as “#FreeSeunKutiCampaign” ,”Independent Judiciary: Is it really independent”, “End Police Brutality”, amongst others, the protesters threatened that if the singer was not released within 24 hours, there would be consequences.
Addressing the protesters, former Chairperson, AAC, Lagos, Kunle Wizeman Ajayi, asked police to tender the evidence gathered from their investigation in court and release Seun Kuti.
He said: “Go and charge Seun, give him bail and charge him. You have enough evidence to tender in court.”
Ajayi said that Seun Kuti had suffered illegality in the face of the law calling police to release him by tomorrow morning or bear the consequences.
He alleged that the Magistrate court was colluding with the police by granting them illegal notices without the knowledge of Kuti’s lawyer.
“Police officer is a citizen just like Seun. Seun should not be the only person on trial while the police officer is hidden. He has been granted bail and he should be allowed to enjoy his bail. The magistrate court is colluding illegally with the police to continue to grant them detention notices that his lawyers are unaware of.”
Continuing, Ajayi alleged that Kuti was taken to the Psychiatric Hospital Aro, Ogun State, without the knowledge of his lawyers, adding “he was paraded illegally which is against the constitution. Enough is enough. If Seun is not released by tomorrow morning the Nigerian ruling class knows what will happen next.”
A representative of MOP, El Rigo, said Kuti was detained because of his stance against police brutality.
“The reason Seun has been subjected to police trials is because of his stance against the capitalist government that has exploited and subjected the people into misery, slavery and poverty. And, because of his role in the EndSARS protest which is why the Nigeria Police feel it is an opportunity to deal with him. We will not allow this to happen to Seun or any Nigerian, we are going to stand and fight.”
A source at the court, lamented that the trial was slated for yesterday, May 23, but was adjourned till today because the Magistrate was absent.
Read Also: Seun Kuti and the ‘Dirty Slap’ on Third Mainland Bridge
A protester, Godwin Imem, accused the court of remanding the musician in custody over the same mistakes the police make, describing it as unfair.
He said: “I just think they are trying to make a scapegoat out of Seun Kuti. I don’t see anything wrong with him slapping a policeman because the police also brutalise civilians. It’s his fundamental right to be provoked or angry, he did not steal or kill, and the officer himself was not injured.
“I just feel they are over-extending and escalating the whole issue.
“For the fact that he, Kuti, has not been granted bail is very mischievous. So, we want a judiciary that is fair and unbiased and that will deal with issues the way it should. I am not in support of what Seun did, but he acted as the imperfect person that he is.”
A fan, Joshua Benjamin said: “I have been beaten up by policemen countless times. Seun Kuti is a good person, and I learn a lot from him. No matter what he has done, he should be set free.”
The lawyers, in the statement, said the Magistrate’s absence would not interfere with the trial, adding that the singer was awaiting administrative approval of his bail to be released.
They said the court was to sit to receive the legal advice from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Lagos, which they alleged was not ready because the police investigation team was still holding on to the case file.
“Nevertheless, the release of Mr. Kuti on bail, as ordered by the Magistrate, is only waiting for administrative approval.
“That process has nothing to do with whether or not the court has a physical sitting. We are hopeful that Mr. Kuti will be out today on the bail granted him, having fulfilled the terms,” they said.
Kuti has been in lawful detention since May 15, for alleged serious assault on a Police Inspector on the Third Mainland Bridge. The singer whose immediate arrest was ordered by the Inspector General of Police (IG) Alkali Usman, surrendered himself to the police that Monday before he was arrested and detained at the SCID, Yaba.
The police had filed a holding charge before the court requesting to detain the suspect for 21 days but was granted two days remand. At the expiration of the 48 hours, the police again, filed an ex-parte application to the court requesting additional four days to keep the suspect in custody to allow for seamless investigation, which the court obliged.
However, proceedings could not go on at the court yesterday following the absence of the Chief Magistrate, who was said to be on training.