The drama that followed the #EndSARS protests against police brutality across the country took a new dimension on Tuesday after a private citizen with the name Kenechukwu Okeke filed a criminal lawsuit against some prominent activists, influencers and entertainers for their roles in the October protests.
On November 10th 2020, Okeke announced via his social media page that he had filed a suit against 50 persons that supported the #EndSARS protests. He filed the suit at a Chief Magistrate court in Abuja.
Listed in the suit are; Aisha Yesufu, Damini Ogulu (Burna Boy), David Adeleke (Davido), Folarin Falana (Falz), Debo Adebayo (Mr Macaroni) Maryam Akpaokagi (Taoma), Peter and Paul Okoye, Innocent Idibia (Tuface), Bankole Wellington (Banky W), Tiwa Savage, Michael Ajereh (Don Jazzy) and Yemi Alade.
Other include the Senior Pastor, Daystar Christian Centre, Sam Adeyemi, Kanu Nwankwo, Joe Abah, Kiki Mordi, Yul Edochie, Uche Jombo, Feyikemi Abudu, Olorunrinu Oduala, Pamilerin Adegoke, Japhet Omojuwa, Ayo Sogunro, Deji Adeyanju and many others.
The total number of those who he accused of being promoters of #EndsSARS are 50 and he wants them to be brought to book for using Twitter ‘to conspire’ amongst themselves to “commit misdemeanour, to wit, promoting and acting in such a manner, with intent to assist in the promotion of #EndSARS and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 97(2) of the Penal Code Act, C53 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
In his Monday suit, Mr Okeke said his properties were destroyed by protesters influenced by aforementioned individuals on social media. Some social media influencers have claimed Mr Okeke is being sponsored by the federal government following threats by Garba Shehu, the senior special assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media that those who supported the protest which degenerated to violence will be dealt with.
Merit and Demerit
In this report, POLITICS NIGERIA examines the merit and the demerit of the suit. It is first important to know that a private citizen according to lawyers who spoke with our correspondent cannot file a criminal complaint before a court against other private citizens.
Criminal conduct case regardless of how it may look over the years requires thorough investigation which a private citizen cannot carry out except with the help of security operatives such as the police or better still, if the complainant wants law enforcement out of the matter, could have filed a civil suit.
Explaining whether a private citizen has the legal right to file a criminal complaint before the court, a senior lawyer and lecturer in the faculty of law at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile Ife said the complainant needs to first reach out to the police to have a meritorious case.
“There is no doubt that the typical legal process of filling or initiating a criminal complaint before the court against any person is for the police or the office of the Attorneys-General of a State or Federation to bring such a complaint to the court, in the name of the Police or State as the Complainant, after due investigation by the Police or other agency of government.”
“In that case, a report is usually made to the police by any person who feels that an offence has been, is being, or will be committed. The police will then investigate and decide whether or not to charge the person to court or seek further legal advice from the office of the Director of Public Prosecution in the office of the Attorneys-General”, the lawyer said.
Meanwhile, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 (ACJA 2015) also gave Mr Okeke the power to institute criminal complaints privately. This can be found in sections 88(1) and 89(5) and then by extension in sections 109(a) & 110(1)(c) of the ACJA 2015.
The law however, has a clause which forbids Mr Okeke from carrying out any action after filing the suit because section 89(5) said no one can bypass the investigative role of the police.
“All complaints made to the court directly under this section shall first be referred to the Police for investigation before any action is taken by the court”, the act read.
Legal experts told POLITICS NIGERIA that following Mr Okeke’s actions, the Chief Magistrate Court in Abuja will as a matter of fact as provided in the law send Mr Okeke’s complaints to the appropriate police divisional office for proper investigation.
“The judge cannot do anything except the police advise on what to do”, Tunde Akano, a lawyer said.
Predicting the future of the case, Mr Akano told POLITICS NIGERIA that it will be difficult for Mr Okeke to prove criminal guilt against the 50 individuals sued because they never at any point ordered hoodlums to destroy properties.
“They protested peacefully and they have the backing of the constitution as citizens of Nigeria. Mr Okeke should rather focus on the criminal who might have destroyed his properties if he’s able to get them.”