Baba Suwe Regains Freedom Friday

Baba Suwe

Baba Suwe : Heads to Supreme Court

Justice Yetunde Idowu of an Ikeja High court, this morning, ordered the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, to release Babatunde Omidina, popularly known as Baba Suwe, on bail by Friday 4 November, 2011, if he fails to excrete the suspected narcotic substance he allegedly concealed in his stomach.

•Baba Suwe in court this morning. PHOTO: IDOWU OGUNLEYE.

The judge made the order while ruling on the application filed by Omidina’s lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, for the enforcement of his fundamental human rights.

After listening to the arguments of counsel from both sides, Justice Idowu noted that she would have ordered NDLEA to released Omidina immediately but for a Federal High Court order which empowered the agency to hold him till Friday.

“The only thing hindering me from releasing the applicant today is because of the Federal High Court order of 20 October. I don’t want to meddle with that order. But if he (applicant) does not excrete the suspected substance he is accused of harbouring in his stomach by Friday, NDLEA should release him on bail,” she said.

She set the bail on Baba Suwe for N500,000 with two sureties in like sum, and further ordered that his international passport be deposited with the High Court Chief Registrar.

Before she pronounced the order, Baba Suwe told the court that he was in good spirits.

“I’m in good spirits. I am not harrassed. I eat three times daily,” he said.

Around the court premises, a phalanx of journalists, myriads of fans and actors held their breath while waiting for the verdict.

While some hung on the gate, others stood for hours under the scorching sun as legal arguments went on inside the court room.

Many of Baba Suwe’s sympathisers and fans arrived the court premises as early as 7.30 a.m. and were there long after 11 a.m.

“I believe they should free him since they do not have any evidence against him,” one man said without giving his name.

Before the proceedings opened at about 9.30 a.m., artistes arrived the court premises in droves. They included Adewale Elesho, Kayode Olaseinde a.k.a. Ajirebi, Sokoti, Remmy Shitta-Bay, Alhaji Ade Ade, Opebe, Alhaji Abdullahi Abdul Rasak, Chairman, Corporate Pictures, Soji Taiwo, a.k.a. Omo Banke, Tajudeen Gbadamosi and Alade Adesina.

When Omidina was being taken away by NDLEA officials at about 11’0 clock after the court sitting, his friends and colleagues were jeering and booing NDLEA officials.

Baba Suwe was arrested in the night of Wednesday 12 October at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, as he was about boarding an Air France flight to Paris, France.

He was detained after strange particles packed like hard drugs were detected in his stomach by the United States-donated scanning machine known as Soter RS.

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The actor denied the allegations and threatened to sue NDLEA.

The NDLEA maintained that it will be vindicated when the actor’s wastes are analysed.

For two days, millions held their breath, expecting the first exhibit from the comedian’s wastes. Such wastes are usually tested by the NDLEA to exonerate or incriminate detained drug suspects after analysis.

But when the waste finally arrived in the night of 14 October, it bore no hint of drug ingestion. Public interest rose. Another round of waste yielded nothing. The third excretion was thus eagerly awaited, especially after Femi Ajayi, NDLEA Director-General, said in a television interview that suspects are usually released after a third excretion tests negative to drug ingestion.

On Monday night, the comedian produced the third waste sample, which also yielded nothing incriminating. Then began strident public clamour for his release. On the web, the NDLEA was slammed by angry Nigerians.

The next day, NDLEA’s Head of Public Affairs, Mr. Mitchell Ofoyeju, left many Nigerians confused, when he announced that the comedian still had to remain in detention.

“I can confirm that Baba Suwe is still under observation. He excreted for the third time last night and no drug was found. But he remains under observation.

“It will not end at the third excretion because it depends on body composition. For some people, it takes more time, more excretions. It really depends on the body of each individual,” Ofoyeju said.

The Lagos airport Commander of the NDLEA, Mr. Hamza Umar, disclosed that in previous arrests, some suspects expelled the drug at the fourth excretion.

As days passed, the arrest looked more like a comedy of errors, with many suggesting that the agency was in a quandary. Many called on the actor to sue the NDLEA. But Ajayi claimed the agency was only doing its job.

Members of the Association of Nigerian Theatre Practitioners, ANTP, led by its former president, Prince Jide Kosoko, also called for the immediate release of the comedian.

“It is surprising and quite unbelievable that after a week in the custody of NDLEA and after excreting about three times without the purported hard drugs found, the authorities of NDLEA have refused to release him.

“This has not only brought untold humiliation, bad press and unprecedented public outcry against Baba Suwe, it has even brought our industry and all the theatre practitioners into public odium. Everybody in our industry is now seen as a potential drug pusher,” Kosoko said at a press conference in Lagos.

—Ayodele Lawal, Henry Ojelu & Simon Ateba

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