Two underage friends accused of stealing eye drops regain freedom after nine months detention

Two underage friends accused of stealing eye drops regain freedom after nine months detention

Two detained underage friends regained their freedom on Tuesday after spending nine months in prison in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital.

Monday Oni, 17, and Femi Ayomide, 15, detained since February for allegedly stealing eye drops, were ordered to be released by a magistrate’s court in Ado-Ekiti on Tuesday.

Their lawyer, Tope Temokun, who announced this in a Facebook post and series of messages shared with PREMIUM TIMES, also told our reporter that Tuesday’s order came after the magistrate struck out the case against them.

“The police arrested, charged them and got them remanded in prison, but stopped coming to court due to lack of evidence. So the magistrate had to strike out the case,” Mr Temokun told our reporter.

The Nigerian laws prohibit under-18 persons from being detained in regular prisons, where they could also be mixed with hardened criminals.

‘How they were arrested’

According to Mr Temokun, the boys were arrested in Ikole Ekiti, about 49 kilometres from Ado-Ekiti, in February, over allegations of stealing eye drops meant for Femi’s father, who is said to be down with perennial eye problems.

The man lives in his house with the boys and depends on the proceeds of their menial jobs, Mr Temokun said.

Dismissing the theft allegation levelled against the teenagers as unfounded, Mr Temokun said a neighbour, who accused them of bringing things home without any source of income, instigated the police against them.

“These two teenagers went to prison not because they were caught in the act of any crime, but because a neighbour tipped the police off that they brought things home without any source of income,” he said.

He added that the police subsequently searched their house and found eye drops, which they alleged to be stolen by the boys because they could not provide a receipt to prove it was legitimately acquired.

Mr Temokun said the police arrested the boys but chose not to charge them at any court in Ikole Ekiti “where their blind father lived, but were taken to Ado-Ekiti to be charged before a magistrate’s court who remanded them in prison since February 2021”.

‘#EndSARS protester discovered them in prison’

A detained #EndSARS protester, Moyinoluwa Olowoyo, was said to have discovered the two boys during his incarceration in the same prison.

Mr Temokun said, Mr Olowoyo, after regaining his freedom, in October, informed his law firm about the boys’ situation.

The law firm, represented by another lawyer, Benjamin Obilor, was said to have intervened and secured the teenagers’ freedom on Tuesday.

“I followed the matter since the early hours of today, till the orders were signed by the magistrate, and the police went to produce them from the prison,” the lawyer stated on Tuesday.

He said his chambers also mobilised the boys back to their hometown, Ikole-Ekiti, to be reunited with Femi’s sick and blind father”. “The duo was super-excited and due to profuse joy, pour encomiums on Tope Temokun Chambers for securing their release.”

He added that the boys were full of praises for Mr Obilor, who was on ground to attend to the case.

‘Sons of nobody’

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Temokun said “These teenagers went to prison because they were sons of nobody in the society.”

“We won’t have a just society for all until those who are not directly affected feel as enraged and outraged as those who are direct victims.”

Also speaking of the plight of Mr Olowoyo, who gave the hint about the teenager’s detention, Mr Temokun said the young man was arrested in Ekiti State for participating in last year’s #EndSARS anti-police brutality protest, and subsequently moved to the police headquarters, Abuja, where he was allegedly detained for 30 days without trial.

He said Mr Olowoyo was moved back to Ekiti, “where he was detained before his arraignment in November 2020, after pressure from Nigerians”.

He was arraigned at a magistrate court, charged with arson and eventually granted bail in liberal terms.

Mr Olowoyo was able to meet his bail conditions and was set free by the police on October 13, 2021, Mr Temokun said.

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