Terms to Note
Prosecution – refers to the Nigerian Police Force and/or their representing lawyers
Defendants/Defense – Refers to the 57 men arrested and/or their representing lawyers
TIERs – The Initiative for Equal Rights
26/08/18 – The Arrest
In the early hours of the morning, the Nigerian Police force raided a birthday celebration hosted at Kelly Ann Hotel and Event Centre (Egbeda, Lagos) arresting 57 men and over two dozen women under the guise of disrupting a ‘homosexual initiation’.
Among the 57 men arrested is a driver who was in the premises to deliver food for the celebration, dancers who were invited to provide entertainment, other hotel guests who were having dinner and drinks in the premises and the guests of the birthday celebration. The female guests who were initially rounded up were eventually allowed to leave and were not arrested.
This was perhaps to enable them to push the narrative of a ‘homosexual initiation’. At first, the men were told they were being arrested for possessing illegal drugs, and then cultism, before the police finally settled on homosexuality.
27/08/18 – Media Trial
Imohimi Edgal, the Lagos state police commissioner at the time, held a press conference with major press outlets present, parading the 57 arrested men as homosexuals. Videos of the arrested men from this press conference went viral on social media, robbing the men of their right to privacy and right to a fair hearing.
28/08/18 – October 2018 – Bail Processing
The magistrate court granted bail to the defendants and TIERs worked with activists, lawyers and other Human Rights organisations to process bail for them in spite of the stringent bail conditions set. While some of them were in prison awaiting bail for only a couple of weeks, others spent as long as three months.
04/12/18 – First Magistrate Court Hearing
The first hearing was held at the Magistrate court where a charge was produced by the Police despite them knowing that the magistrate court does not have jurisdiction over the case. This charge accused them of attending meetings of unlawful societies and belonging to a confraternity. The prosecution also stated that they had no evidence or witness ready and needed more time to gather the evidence. The judge adjourned the case.
9/04/19 – Second Magistrate Court Hearing
The 57 men once again showed up in court, many of them from their schools, places of employment and residences outside Lagos. The defence lawyer argued that they still hadn’t been presented with a charge from the Federal High Court, which had the correct jurisdiction over the case. The judge gave the prosecution more time to get their affairs in order and properly charge the boys.
02/07/19 – Third Magistrate Court Hearing
For the third time, the defence lawyer asked that the case be thrown out since there was still no proper charge, quoting the defendants’ constitutional rights to personal liberty and making an argument for the disruption the case and repeated court appearances had caused in their lives. The judge adjourned the case.
26/08/19 – One Year Mark
The families, friends and supporters of the young men, together with The Initiative for Equal Rights held a press conference to mark the 1st year since the unlawful arrest. This was the first time the young men supported by their family and friends finally had the opportunity to tell their side of the story and call for justice. After getting overwhelming local and international attention, the police drafted a hasty charge and filed at the Federal High Court.
9/10/19 – Fourth Magistrate Court Hearing
The magistrate judge was not present for this scheduled court hearing, but the prosecutor for the Police presented a Federal High Court charge to one of the defendants and asked him to circulate it. The new charges were different from the charges initially presented at the magistrate court. The defendants were now being charged with ‘public show of same-sex amorous relationships with each other in hidden places within said Kelly Ann hotel…’
4/11/19 – First Federal High Court Hearing
The Federal High Court of Nigeria heard the case for the first time. The court was too small to accommodate all the defendants. The judge adjourned the hearing to a later date in a bigger courtroom to accommodate all the defendants.
13/11/19 – Fifth Magistrate Court Hearing
The prosecutor informed the judge that a charge had been filed at the Federal High Court. This means that the defendants were facing parallel prosecution in two courts, a clear abuse of the court process.
22/11/19 – Second Federal High Court Hearing
The prosecution requested an adjournment to amend their charge.
27/11/19 – Third Federal High Court Hearing
The defendants were asked to take a plea and they pleaded not guilty. The young men were rearrested but were granted bail by the judge on the same day.
11/12/19 – Fourth Federal High Court Hearing
The trial did not hold as the prosecution did not have a witness or any evidence to tender to the court. The hearing was adjourned until the next day.
12/12/19 – Fifth Federal High Court Hearing
The trial did not hold as the prosecution still had no witness. The defence lawyer argued for the case to be dismissed, but the judge instead adjourned the case to another date.
04/02/19 – Sixth Federal High Court Hearing
The prosecution’s first witness was brought before the court. He mentioned his name, his rank, his posting and that he had met the when they were transferred to the anti-cultism unit.
05/02/19 – Seventh Federal High Court Hearing
The trial was once again stalled because the prosecution brought no other witness. The hearing was adjourned.
03/03/20 – Case is Struck Out at Magistrate Court
After five court appearances over a 15-month period, the magistrate judge struck out the case from the magistrate court.
03/03/20 – Eighth Federal High Court Hearing
The prosecution brought a second witness to the court. The witness testified to being part of the team that carried out the arrest based on suspicion of a crime.
02/04/20 – Ninth Federal High Court Hearing
The court hearing did not hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The subsequent date of 17th June 2020 also did not hold. There has been no new date set as of the time of writing this.
Throughout the course of this case, the young men have suffered many irreversible losses including loss of employment, forceful evictions from their homes, discrimination by neighbours, employers, friends, colleagues, and estrangement from their families.
Many of them travel long distances to honour court appearances incurring debts from travel costs. The case has also taken a mental toll on most of them, with many of them reporting that they struggle with depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies.
The police are yet to present evidence in court that backs their multiple charges. The lives, reputations and livelihood of these 57 men have been irreparably damaged.
Join The Initiative for Equal Rights and other activists across Nigeria to call for the court to #AcquitThe57.
Until we are all free, none of us is free.
On the 27th of October, 2020, the case of the 57 men who were arrested two years ago on false charges was struck out.
While this is good news that the men no longer have to show up in court repeatedly to defend this charge, we are disappointed that the case has been struck out instead of being dismissed.
A dismissal means that the individuals are free of all charges and the case can’t be brought up again in any court of law. However, a strikeout means that they are free to go away now, but the police can arrest them again anytime in the future on these same charges.
Since it was found that the Prosecution lacks evidence for the crimes alleged, the proper order should have been a dismissal. As it stands now, we see that the justice system has again failed to mete out justice.
Thank you to everyone who joined us to demand justice. We do not take your support for granted, and we hope that you will continue to use your voice to speak up against injustice. Thank you!