Beninese released after 14 months in jail

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A Benin national, Robert Kpanou, arrested in October 2020 during the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest regained freedom on Tuesday after spending 14 months in jail, his lawyer, Festus Ogun told PREMIUM TIMES.

His release comes days after Seyi Awobola regained freedom after spending 14 months at Kirikiri prison.

Mr Kpanou, who worked as a tile layer, was arrested on October 22, 2020, in Lagos, his brother, Alex told this newspaper.

According to FIJ, he was arrested while returning to his residence when he was stopped by officers attached to Maroko police station for a search during the 2020 nationwide #EndSARS protest.

Mr Kpanou was arrested that evening after the police found in his possession a roll of sachet milk and four canned sardines they claimed he stole from a looted supermarket nearby.

“After telling the police officers I bought the sachet milk and sardines, they asked me to bring out the receipts but I told them I didn’t have any,” Mr Kpanou said.

Lagos was stormed by hoodlums in the days after the #EndSARS protest, leaving many parts of the state with burnt buildings, looted shops, and destroyed properties.

Many believe the protests, which were peaceful in the beginning, were hijacked by hoodlums who hid under the cover of the protest to unleash mayhem across the state.

“By the way, they (police) never mentioned anything about any crime of burgling a supermarket in court. They said we were the ones that burnt Ajah Police Station, whereas I never joined the protest,” he said.

Speaking with this newspaper after his release via his lawyer’s phone, Mr Kpanou said although he felt happy to have been freed, he suffered while in jail.

“No food, any small thing, na punishment,” he said.

‘Administrative hurdle’

His lawyer told this newspaper that the matter was withdrawn on Friday by the state government and the case struck out by the magistrate, L.A Owolabi, who immediately issued a release warrant.

Mr Ogun said he took the warrant to the prison where his client was detained but he met an “administrative hurdle.”

The prison officers required a certified copy of the judgment with the magistrate’s signature stating his release, he said.

He said he went back to Yaba to get it but he was told that the magistrate sits at the court in Ogba.

He said he went to Ogba on Monday and got the court ruling and proceeded to the Kirikiri prison on Tuesday to release Mr Kpanou.

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