Justice Esther Lolo of the Kaduna State High court on Thursday discharged and acquitted members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) who were standing trial for protest in Kaduna following the December 2015 brutal slaughter by the Nigerian Army.
- 10 members of the IMN were arraigned by the Kaduna government on charges of Criminal Conspiracy, Unlawful Assembly, Rioting, Disturbance of Public Peace and Causing Grievous Hurt.
- In July 2017, the prosecution closed its case after all its witnesses had testified in a bid to prove to the court that the IMN Members had a case to answer.
- The defence team then asked the court to rule on a “no case submission”. According to the defence, the Kaduna government had failed to establish a prima facie case against the defendants requiring them to enter a defence in the matter. They failed to prove their case.
- The defence team, led by Maxwell Kyon, urged the court to discharge the accused persons and acquit them of the offences for which they were standing trial.
- Justice Lolo upheld the no case submission.
- She discharged and acquitted the defendants on all the charges.
- She held that the entire evidence of the prosecution was not direct as it failed to point to any of the defendants as being one of the perpetrators of any of the offences for which the defendants stood trial.
Why this matters?
The members of the Islamic Movement have been victims of government brutality ever since an Army onslaught led to the deaths of hundreds including women and children in December 2015.
Since the Army raid on the Shiites, the leader of the sect, Sheikh Ibrahim El-zakzaky and his wife have been in custody without trial, in flagrant disregard of the constitution and a December 2, 2016 court ruling that ordered their release.
Only this week, a senior lawyer, Femi Falana, wrote to Pres. Muhammadu Buhari asking him to obey the court order as the FG’s disobedience creates “a dangerous impression that the federal government does not operate under the rule of law.”
So here is the big question after yesterday’s ruling by Justice Lolo: Would the government obey the courts this time? Or would the government continue to pick which court judgements to obey?