The Chief Magistrate Court in Yaba, Lagos has granted bail to #EndSARS campaigner, Eromosele Adene, after over one week in custody.
Adene was forcefully ejected from his Lagos home by over a dozen police officers on November 7, 2020 ahead of a planned protest in Lagos.
The 27-year-old was subsequently transferred to the Force Criminal Investigation Department at the Police Headquarters, Abuja, on November 9, before he was returned to Lagos late on Sunday, November 15, without any official explanations.
The Lagos State Police Command arraigned him before the court on Monday, November 16, requesting that a remand request be granted to keep the defendant in custody for an additional 30 days.
The presiding magistrate, O. A. Salawu, adjourned ruling on the request till Tuesday.
When the hearing resumed, the case had been transferred to another magistrate, Folarin Williams, who listened again to the request of the prosecution team to remand Adene in custody.
The defendant was accused of criminal incitement, cyberstalking, provoking breach of public peace, and conduct likely to cause the breach of peace.
The accusations were hinged on his call for a peaceful demonstration in Lagos State despite the position of authorities that demonstrations be suspended.
Adene’s lead counsel, Adesina Ogunlana, described the application as a threat to the fundamental rights of his client.
He said the defendant has the constitutional right to call for a protest, and noted that he had not been accused of calling for a riot.
He also noted that the Police have had enough time in the 10 days Adene had been detained to investigate the case, and argued that his client should not suffer for the slow speed of authorities.
Ogunlana accused the Police of trying to overreach on his client and on the authority of the court.
“This application should be rejected. The court should not allow itself to be used to cover incompetence,” he said.
While delivering her ruling, the magistrate said she understood the state’s anxiety over peaceful protests getting out of hand to snowball into anarchy, but that it’s not enough reason to infringe on fundamental human rights. She ruled that Adene be granted bail in the interest of justice.
The magistrate set bail at N1 million with two sureties, both of whom must be tax payers, and one of them required to own property in Lagos.
The court’s decision sent many in attendance at the hearing into wild jubilation.
Dozens of people attended the hearing on Tuesday, with heavy Police presence recorded.
More than eight vehicles filled with police officers were deployed to the area surrounding the court, and some people were initially denied entry.
The militarised affair was heavily criticised by those who had come to witness proceedings, and numerous disagreements between the crowd and security personnel delayed the commencement of the 9 am hearing for two hours.
Adene’s family members were present in court and were in high spirits both before and after the court’s ruling.
“We’re very happy,” his sister, Onome Adene, told Pulse shortly after the court judgement.
His mother, Florence Adene, said the decision was proof that truth always prevails and expressed confidence that his bail conditions will be perfected immediately.
“The judiciary is still the recourse for the common man,” she said.
She hailed the decision as victory for Nigerian youths who she said should not feel intimidated.
Adene was arrested only two days after the Lagos State Police Command announced that it would resist any attempts to stage protests ‘either “peaceful” or violent’
“The Lagos State Police Command has vowed to resist any form of planned protest, procession or gathering under any guise or nomenclature in Lagos State as the government and people of Lagos still nurture the wounds of the recent Endsars violence that wrecked havocs across the state,” the command said in the November 5 statement.
Adene’s arrest is believed to have been in connection with his call to stage a protest in Lagos, a continuation of nationwide protests against police brutality that kicked off in early October and culminated in the deadly attack by soldiers on peaceful protesters in the Lekki area of Lagos on October 20.
The crackdown escalated into a breakdown of law and order in Lagos and across the country with many incidents of looting and vandalism recorded, resulting into losses estimated in billions of naira.
The devastation has strengthened the government’s resolve to disallow any form of peaceful assembly guaranteed by the constitution.
A day before Adene’s arrest in Lagos, six people, including a journalist were arrested by the police during a peaceful demonstration at the National Assembly complex in Abuja.
The six were accused by authorities of criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, public nuisance, and inciting public disturbance.
They were remanded in custody by a Chief Magistrates’ court, and were only granted bail on Wednesday, November 11.