SEUN KUTI: HALT THE POLITICAL TRIAL NOW!
We Demand his Immediate Release Having Met his Bail Condition
We demand appropriate reprimand for Lagos State Police Command PRO Benjamin Hundeyin and other officers who have violated the law in their attempt to nail Seun Kuti.
The ongoing trial of Seun Kuti for alleged assault of a policeman has turned to a political trial and vendetta that threatens the rights of all. We in the Youth Rights Campaign (YRC) condemn the witch hunt and demand a fair trial for Seun if truly the police have a genuine case. We aver that the police authorities have broken so many laws and committed several infractions in their frenzy to nail Seun Kuti that this trial no more measures up to what any reasonable person can regard as a fair trial. In particular, we condemn the vengeful and unprofessional approach of the Police PRO, Benjamin Hundeyin and demand appropriate reprimand for him and other officers who have broken several laws in their attempts to nail Seun including subjecting him to an unfair media trial without allowing the court to do its job.
Seun Kuti, a radical musician and son of legendary musician and social crusader, the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti, was taken into custody after he turned himself in on Monday 15 May 2023, charged to court and remanded over an altercation with a policeman on Saturday May 13, 2023 on the Third Mainland Bridge. A video making the rounds on social media allegedly shows Seun slapping the policeman.
Seun has made a claim that the reason for his action was that the policeman threatened the safety of himself and his family by attempting to run his vehicle out of the road while travelling on the Third Mainland Bridge. However, we note that so far the police authorities have shown no interest in investigating this claim but have instead focused on denigrating Seun on social media while twisting the fact of the case to rope him in. Narratives put out by the Lagos State Police PRO, Benjamin Hundeyin, have painted the facts of what happened as though it was Seun that actually hit the policeman’s vehicle and not the other way round.
Also, the police have so far treated Seun unprofessionally and viciously with a view to humiliate him thereby violating the principles of natural justice which stipulates that an accused is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. For instance, Seun was handcuffed despite the fact that he peacefully turned himself in in violation of Section 5 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law. He was also paraded before media cameras in apparent violation of Section 9 of the Lagos State Administration of Criminal Justice Law, which prohibits any form of a parade of criminal suspects in the state. Seun has been starved while in detention while the police have gone ahead to search his home over an alleged crime he committed several kilometers from his home and in broad day light.
In continuation of their acts of desperation and vengeance, the police also today, May 18, re-arraigned Seun in court without his lawyers and despite having been released on bail by a Magistrate effective from today. The police were able to procure a black market order in the absence of Seun’s lawyers to extend his detention till Monday.
This is clearly an effort to manufacture new charges against Seun and it shows that what is on trial in this case goes beyond Seun’s alleged action of May 13. As far as all can see, what is on trial in this case is Seun’s role as an activist and prominent critic of the State and government especially his support for the struggles of youth in October 2020 against police brutality and State oppression. The police clearly want to use Seun Kuti to send a message to the labour and youth movement and this is why it is now a political trial aimed at getting back at those who have regularly called out the police institution for its act of impunity against the Nigerian people. We agree with Seun’s lawyer, Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, SAN, who has said that “A Police institution that has no respect for the law it exists to enforce is not a good example to alleged lawbreakers”.
Although we do not condone violence, it cannot but be noted that by their conduct so far in this case, the police authorities have actually confirmed why many Nigerians who have had any encounter with the police institution often hate the police and feel motivated to attack its personnel. This is because the police are a vicious, oppressive institution of the State that regularly extorts, oppresses, beats, kills and humiliates ordinary Nigerians and youth on a daily basis. Just yesterday, May 17, a video surfaced on social media showing the police viciously assaulting an Okada (motorcycle taxi) rider at the Abule Egba area of Lagos State and seizing his motorcycle. All over Lagos, police personnel mount legal and illegal roadblocks where they extort and harass motorists. It would appear that the #EndSARS struggle of October 2020 against police brutality and state oppression has been completely forgotten by the police institution.
In the light of the unfair trial of Seun Kuti and the clear desperation by the police to unjustly incarcerate him, the YRC demand his immediate release having already met his bail condition. Also importantly, given the continuous acts of oppression and extortion by the police of ordinary Nigerians, we urge youth groups and activists to come together to discuss what needs to be done to reignite a mass movement with peaceful protests and demonstrations to begin to demand once again an end to police brutality and state oppression.
Adaramoye Michael Lenin
National Coordinator, YRC
Francis Nwapa Watch
National Secretary, YRC