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Court frees man detained without trial for 14 years after running mad at Kirikiri Prison


Court frees man detained without trial for 14 years after running mad at Kirikiri Prison

After enduring 14 years of detention without trial, Idris Musa has finally been set free by the Court of Appeal in Lagos.

Having been arrested in 2010 in connection with the murder of Ali Kolo, Musa sadly developed a mental disorder during his lengthy confinement in Kirikiri prison.

The appellate court acknowledged the tragic circumstances faced by the appellant, recognizing the toll of his extended imprisonment on his mental health, and ultimately ruled for his unconditional release.

Justice Jimi Bada held: “Before I make a final order in this appeal, I will draw attention to the fact that the appellant has been in the custody of the third respondent for the past 14 years without trial.

“And according to Paragraph 12 of the affidavit in support of the Fundamental Right Application filed at the trial court sworn to on July 18, 2017, the appellant as a result of his years of confinement without trial has developed grave signs of mental disorder.

“There is no counter-affidavit to contradict that fact from any of the first, second and third respondents.

“Therefore, the appellant is hereby ordered to be released unconditionally to any member of his family to enable them to take care of him adequately.”

The two other justices on the panel, Justice Folashade Ojo and Justice Paul Bassi, concurred with the lead judgment.

Musa was first arraigned before an Ebute Meta Magistrate Court, Lagos.

Magistrate Doja Ojo ordered that he should be remanded in prison custody on a holding charge pending a Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) advice.

Although the advice was issued several months later for his arraignment before the High Court, it took over two years before he was eventually charged before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo.

However, his trial was suspended when a prosecution witness testified that he was not the ‘Idris Musa’ that killed the deceased for which he was charged.

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Thereafter, neither the Police nor the office of the Attorney-General of Lagos state pursued the matter, leaving the defendant in jail.

In 2017, the law firm of Charles Mekwunye & Co took up the matter and filed a fundamental human rights enforcement suit against the Commissioner of Police, the office of the Attorney-General and the Deputy Comptroller-General of Prisons seeking Musa’s release.

It held that the arrest and continued detention of the defendant without any formal charge or trial for eight years at the time of delivering the judgment was not unconstitutional or a violation of the defendant’s fundamental right to liberty.

The lower court ordered the Attorney-General’s office to expedite the prosecution of the defendant before a court of competent jurisdiction.

Despite the court order, the defendant remained in prison as no attempt was made by the AG’s office to bring him for trial before any court.

In 2020, Dr. Charles Mekwunye (SAN) filed an appeal before the Court of Appeal Lagos on behalf of the defendant.

He prayed the court to set aside the judgment of the lower court and order unconditional release of the appellant with compensation and public apology.

Mekwunye argued that the continued detention of the appellant in prison for 10 without trial and the Lagos AG’s refusal to arraign him before any court as earlier ordered by the lower court is a breach of his constitutional right to liberty.

The appellate court in a lead judgment by Justice Bada disagreed with Mekwunye’s argument.

It insisted that an arrest and remand properly made as in the instant case cannot constitute a breach of fundamental human rights.

The justice held that there were other avenues for the defendant to seek justice for the purported infringement of his fundamental human rights.

Justice Bada, however, took into consideration the appellant’s health condition and freed him.

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