Protest as police arraign Sowore’s supporters for destroying campaign posters

Six supporters of the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, Omoyele Sowore, were on Monday arraigned before an Ikeja Magistrates’ Court for allegedly destroying the campaign posters of other political parties and candidates in Lagos State.

PUNCH Metro had reported on Monday that Olagokun Odunayo, 27; Kool-kloud Henry, 26; Ugaju Joseph, 29; Damilola Omidiji, 31; Michael Kate, 18; and Banwo Olagokun, 31, were caught tearing and replacing campaign posters of other parties and candidates with those of the AAC around 2.30am on Sunday.

The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Chike Oti, had in a statement on Sunday, said the action of the suspects was against the law of the Lagos State Signage and Advertising Agency to regulate outdoor advertising in the state, adding that the state Commissioner of Police, Edgal Imohimi, had directed that the suspects be charged to court.

The exhibits reportedly recovered from the suspects were posters bearing the picture of the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, Sowore, brush, buckets containing gum and torn posters of other political parties.

The members of the ‘Take It Back Movement’ were arraigned on three counts bordering on criminal damage of property and conduct likely to cause breach of peace.

The charge read in part, “That you, Olagokun Odunayo, Kool-kloud Henry, Ugaju Joseph, Damilola Omidiji, Michael Kate and Banwo Olagokun, on December 9, 2018, around 2.30am on Awolowo Way, Ikeja, in the Ikeja Magisterial District, did conspire among yourselves to commit felony to wit; criminal damage to property.

“That you, Olagokun Odunayo, Kool-kloud Henry, Ugaju Joseph, Damilola Omidiji, Michael Kate and Banwo Olagokun, on the same date, time and place in the aforesaid magisterial district, did conduct yourselves in a manner likely to cause breach of peace by tearing campaign posters of other political parties and replacing them with the AAC presidential candidate’s posters.”

The police prosecutor, Inspector Donny Raphael, said the offences contravened sections 412, 340 and 312 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State of Nigeria, 2015.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges. The counsel for the defendants, Taiwo Olawale, requested for his clients’ bail in liberal terms. The presiding magistrate, Mrs B. O. Osunsanmi, granted the defendant bail in the sum of N50,000 each with two sureties each in like sum.

She said the sureties must be gainfully employed with evidence of two years tax payment to the Lagos State Government and have their addresses verified by the court.

Osunsanmi adjourned the case till February 4, 2019.

However, before the arraignment, some supporters of Sowore, who marched to the Area F Police Command in Ikeja, were reportedly shot at, tear-gassed and arrested.

The protesters had demanded the release of the six supporters being detained.

An eyewitness told our correspondent that the police shot directly at the protesters, whose conduct was said to be peaceful.

He said “The protest was based on the arrest of our comrades. While we were at it, the police shot at us and fired teargas canisters at us. One of our members was hit.

“The police moved in and arrested some of us but they were later released.”

The Director of Media and Communications, Sowore Campaign, Rachael Onamusi-Kpiasi, said many of the protesters sustained injuries and one car was impounded.

“The ‘Take It Back Movement’ and the AAC party are still trying to account for the members who embarked on a peaceful protest this morning. Witnesses at the scene reported being shot at and tear-gassed, with many of them sustaining injuries,” she stated.

When contacted, the Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Chike Oti, said the action of the police was aimed at preventing unnecessary bloodletting.

He said, “The party is not the only political party in Lagos State and we are not seeking anything. These people were arrested at an unholy hour in the morning tearing other peoples’ posters. If they had done that unnoticed, other parties will be quarrelling with each other over it; they will be pointing accusing fingers at the wrong party and this can lead to a breach of public peace.

“This morning, when we wanted to charge the suspects to court, the supporters practically invaded the police station in a tumultuous manner to cause panic and possibly overpower the officers at the police station, which we resisted by using a non-lethal weapon called teargas to disperse the riotous mob in order to prevent unnecessary bloodletting and to be able to carry out our constitutional duty of prosecuting the offenders.”