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22 Jan 2018

Physically Challenged Man Who Spent 5-Years In Prison For A Crime He Didn't Commit, Finally Released

An innocent physically challenged man who spent 5 Years in prison for a Crime he did not commit has been released at last.

A physically-challenged man, Ajayi Adetola, lost over five years of his life in the Kirikiri Medium
Prison over an offence he knew nothing about.

The 37-year-old was discharged and acquitted by a Lagos State High Court five years after he was
arraigned on counts of robbery, stealing and
conspiracy by operatives of the Special Anti- Robbery Squad, Ikeja.
Punch Metro learnt that SARS operatives had arrested Adetola's former acquaintance, Rashidi
Sikiru, for allegedly stealing a vehicle.

The suspect was said to have been tortured by the
policemen, who asked him to name other members of his gang.
Sikiru was said to have fingered Adetola. Punch
correspondent gathered that the duo were arraigned in court after which they were remanded
in the Kirikiri Medium Prison.

After Adetola's counsel stopped coming to court after collecting N300,000 from his family, the
judge was said to have assigned the case to a
lawyer from the Lagos State Office of the Public Defender.

The lawyer was said to have interviewed Sikiru, who confessed to have mentioned Adetola in the
heat of police torture.
During the trial, he was reported to have testified
that the Abeokuta, Ogun State indigene, was innocent.

When the Justice Kudirat Jose court delivered judgment in the matter, she was said to have
convicted Sikiru of stealing and sentenced him to
four years' imprisonment.

Adetola was, however, discharged and acquitted on all the three counts.

While recounting what led to his arrest and imprisonment, the father of three said his life had
been damaged by the incident.

He said his first child had stopped going to school due to financial constraints.
He said, "I am a commercial driver. I hired a bus
and delivered returns to the owner every week.

Rashidi (Sikiru) was my friend; I met him in 2010.
He always begged me to release the vehicle to
him to work. I did that to assist him, mostly on Sundays, when I went to church.

"However, I got a call that the police at Ikorodu had arrested him for an offence. He called to
inform me. I went and picked my bus. The bus
was registered with the Disable Sports at the
National Stadium, Surulere, so that made it easier
for me to get the vehicle back.
"But since that time, I stopped releasing my
vehicle to him. Later, I learnt he got another
vehicle he used to work and he was arrested over
a crime and transferred to SARS.
"Sometime in June 2012, some SARS operatives
came to my house at midnight and asked if I knew
him. I said he had driven my vehicle in the past.
The policemen did not hear anything further. They
arrested me and my brother-in-law, who was living
with me then. They left my wife and children."

He explained that when his family members got to
SARS office at Ikeja, they were told that Sikiru was
caught stealing a vehicle and he (Adetola) was an accomplice.
He said the police refused entreaties to release
him, adding that they insisted he knew about the crime.

"My family secured the bail of my brother-in-law with N100,000. They begged for my bail as well
and the police demanded N800,000.
"I was taken to court after spending two months in
their custody, from where I was taken to prison. A
lawyer we hired demanded N500,000 and my
father sold his land to raise N300,000. I had spent
over one year in prison that time and the matter had been transferred to the high court. But after
collecting the N300,000, the lawyer's attendance
to court was not regular and at a point, he stopped coming," he added.

Adetola said the judge in charge of the case, Jose,
became concerned over his lack of legal representation and urged a counsel with the OPD
to take up the matter.
The counsel, who took over the case in 2014, was
said to have taken the statements of both men.

She told Punch Metro that in the course of the interviews, the first accused (Sikiru) told her he
lied against the second defendant.
"He said he was tortured by the policemen to
name members of his gang and he gave a random
name. He said when he saw the way the matter
was going, he told the police Adetola was
innocent, but they did not listen to him. I asked him if he could say that before the judge and he
said he was ready to testify, which he actually did.
He (Adetola), however, could not be released because the matter had to be concluded and judgment delivered.

"The matter dragged for about six years because
the prosecution's witnesses were not forthcoming
and there were some technicalities. After the delays, the court gave judgment on December 19,
2017.
"The second accused was discharged and acquitted on all the three counts, while the first
accused was convicted of stealing and sentenced
to four years' imprisonment," she added.
Punch correspondent learnt that Sikiru was later
released, having spent over five years in prison as
well.
The Director of the OPD, Mrs. Olubukola Salami,
confirmed the case, saying the agency would
continue to fight for indigents in the state.
She said, "The mandate of the Office of the Public
Defender is to provide free legal aid. The office, through its committed and trained officers, has
continued to provide quality legal representation to
indigents in Lagos State."

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