As the world celebrates the 2022 International Women’s Day, Justice Christopher Balogun of an Ikeja High Court in Lagos State has freed an alleged juvenile offender incarcerated for five years for alleged murder.
“Today is International Women’s Day and it is your lucky day. You are going home,” Justice Balogun said.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the alleged juvenile offender (name withheld) was incarcerated when he was 15 years old.
He was kept at the Borstal Training Institution, Abeokuta, Ogun State since July 21, 2016.
He was accused of killing another minor with a sword during a fight.
He is now 20 years old.
Earlier, state counsel, Gbenga Alagbe, told the court that the case, slated for commencement of trial, could not proceed because of unavailability of witnesses.
Reacting, Balogun queried why another state counsel, Yusuf Sule, who was meant to prosecute the case, was also not in court.
The judge remarked that cases involving juvenile offenders were being stalled in the high courts due to lack of diligent prosecution.
He said: “If you have witnesses, bring them; if you do not have, I will strike the case out.
“One of the underage that came to court last week has been at the foster home for more than five years.
“Doing what for five years?
“That is Form 1 to Form 5 in any public school that he has lost.
“If you really have cases against them, prosecute them, but if you don’t, let them go home.
“I will speak to the attorney-general about the attitude of state counsel.”
Before the judge set the juvenile free, he summoned one of the caretakers in the juvenile home to testify about his character.
“My lord, his character is okay. He is even the Head of the Tailoring Unit,” the caretaker said.
The judge also summoned the father of the juvenile.
Balogun told the father: “If I hear he does anything bad…
“The law does not allow us to acquit him of the charge, but to only discharge him.
“This is a matter where the prosecution did not do a serious work.
“Although it is a heinous charge, the caretaker at the foster home said he had turned a new leaf.”
Following the release, defence counsel, Rukayat Owolabi, thanked the judge for the court’s decision.