The Ondo State High Court has struck out the charges against Kemisola Ogunniyi and Bukunmi Ayodele, two alleged #EndSARS protesters after three years and nine months of legal battle.
Their release follows an application by the state counsel, Helen Falowo Esq to withdraw the charge in suit No: AK/3C/2021 against the duo.
In the application, the prosecuting counsel informed the court that the prosecution had decided to withdraw the charges against the defendants, stating that it had become impossible to locate the vital witnesses needed for their prosecution.
A counsel from the defence chambers, Tope Temokun Chambers, Adedotun Adegoroye Esq. however did not oppose the application.The trial judge, Hon. Justice Kuteyi, subsequently struck out the charges and discharged and acquitted the defendants.
Kemisola Ogunniyi was 18 years old when she was arrested on October 22, 2020, by Nigerian soldiers. She was arrested while on her way to the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) to collect money for her mother’s treatment.
She was arrested by Nigerian soldiers at random and handed over to the police for investigation. She was later alleged to be part of those who set the Aketi Campaign Office, Akure, on fire during the #EndSARS protest that took place in October 2020.
She was arraigned before a Magistrate Court in Akure which declined jurisdiction on the case based on the gravity of the offences she was accused of before fresh charges were filed against her and others by the state government at the High Court, Akure, in Charge No. AK/3C/2021. The detained Kemisola, who was barely one month old pregnant, on June 16, 2021, gave birth in prison, to a child named Okiki, who is now two years and one month old.
Following concerted efforts and public outcry, Kemisola was released to her counsel, Tope Temokun, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, from the Surulere Prison in Ondo on the orders of the Ondo State High Court presided over by Justice Omolara Adejumo, on the compassionate bail given to her that the naming ceremony of her baby should not take place in prison.
Bukunmi Ayodele, who was arrested alongside Kemisola was not so lucky. She spent a few more months in prison after Kemisola’s release till she too was released on bail. Ever since, the duo have been facing charges filed against them by the Ondo state government, their counsel, Temokun told SaharaReporters.
Temokun added, “We have been in court since 2021 to defend these two #EndSARS prisoners and secure their freedom, convinced that they were innocent of the charges against them.”
He added, “Today, the 25th of July, 2023, the High Court of Ondo State at Akure presided over by Hon. Justice Kuteyi struck out the charges against Kemisola Ogunniyi and Bukunmi Ayodele, in charge AK/3C/2021, after the state counsel, the prosecuting counsel, Helen Falowo Esq, informed the court that the Prosecution has decided to withdraw the charge against the Defendants.
“The five-count charge filed against these innocent Nigerians which has robbed them of their freedom since October 2020 and kept them in prison for about nine months and in court for close to three years now is conspiracy to commit felony and arson, riotous assembly, stealing, and malicious damage.”
He regretted that after close to three years, the state suddenly woke up “today to realise that it did not have witnesses or evidence to prosecute these youths having wasted their precious youthful years since 2020.”
Temokun, however, insisted that “we must not be tired to take the powers to task,” noting that “if we have abandoned these youths to their fate, who knows what would have happened.” He noted that since 2021 when they came into the case, they have insisted the two Nigerian youths were innocent.
He recalled how on June 17, he wrote separate letters to the Ondo State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Sir Charles Titiloye, and the Chief Judge of Ondo State then (now retired) Honourable Justice Oluwatoyin Akeredolu, seeking Kemisola’s release.
In the letter, he insisted she was innocent of the allegation levelled against her, which was the burning of Aketi Campaign Office Akure, as the charges against her were phantom charges. “Today, history vindicates us!” he said.