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Foundation demands justice over TikTokers' detention

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Adesola James (Arifa) and Odumosu Azeez Awiye (Veron).

By Taiwo Okanlawon

London-based Foundation for the Advancement of Liberty has expressed deep dissatisfaction over the continued incarceration of popular TikTokers, Adesola James (Arifa) and Odumosu Azeez Awiye (Veron).

The foundation’s director, Omolara Ayoade, in a statement, noted that despite meeting their bail conditions, the duo remains in prison custody.

Ayoade said this was due to additional requirements allegedly imposed by a judge of the Federal High Court in Lagos.

The foundation argues that the judge’s actions raise concerns about the integrity of the trial and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.

The statement read in part, “The defendants were granted bail in the sum of N5 million each with two responsible sureties each in like sum. The conditions of the bail stipulated that ‘each surety must have substantial means of livelihood and provide evidence of this before the court, all sureties must have a blood relationship with the defendants, each surety must produce evidence of tax payment for the last three years, all sureties must reside within Lagos, the official and residential addresses of each surety must be verified by the office of the Deputy Registrar, all sureties must deposit two copies of passport photographs with the court, and the defendants are to be remanded at Ikoyi Correctional Facilities pending the perfection of bail and trial.

“These conditions were immediately satisfied and fulfilled by the defendants. However, when they were supposed to be released, the judge delayed signing the warrant of release and subsequently imposed additional requirements. These included the submission and verification of the sureties’ statements of account and BVNs, insinuating that the sureties might be professional sureties.

“It is a fundamental principle of law that when a judge has given a ruling, as in this case, the judge immediately becomes functus officio. By law, the judge is no longer permitted to alter the ruling or judgment as has been done in this instance. Such a ruling can only be amended upon appeal to the Court of Appeal. This raises serious concerns about the integrity of any judgment Messrs. Adesola James and Odumosu Azeez may receive at trial. The trial has since commenced, and the popular TikTokers remain in prison custody. According to Section 36(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, every person charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

They foundation urged a fair and balanced trial, honouring the initial bail conditions and rectifying any undue delays in the defendants’ release.

Ayoade also emphasized the need for justice to be served without bias, upholding the principles of fairness and integrity.

“The trial has since commenced, and the popular TikTokers remain in prison custody. According to Section 36(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, every person charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“While we acknowledge that the complainant, as a traditional ruler, has every right to protect his integrity, this must be done within the ambit of the law. The arbiter in this case must not be seen to be manifestly biased in favour of any party. Justice can only be served when the judge balances the scales of justice, irrespective of the identities of the parties involved.

“We respectfully request that the learned Judge of the Federal High Court ensure that the bail conditions, as initially set, are honoured and that any undue delay in the release of the defendants is rectified immediately.

“Justice can only be achieved when it is administered fairly and without bias. We trust that the court will uphold these principles and act accordingly.”

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