by Tolu Orekoya
While former president Olusegun Obasanjo rants about the corrupt judiciary, there is real-world fall out and consequences due to an overburdened and underperforming legal system.
There’s the heart-wrenching case of Blessing Effiong who is caught up in the legal system, and is currently being held without charge for the past three years. The young girl was originally arrested at the age of 16 for receiving stolen property after a phone she bought for N800 was found to be stolen. The owner called and asked for his phone back, which she agreed to in return for her N800 and was arrested at the scene of the exchange.
Blessing has been held in jail without charges for three years. Without her being charged, the case cannot be brought to trial where she can be found innocent or guilty of the crime. In Blessing’s case, she was a minor when she was arrested. Shouldn’t she have been sent to the juvenile court? Why was she treated as an adult? And sent to an adult prison?
From Linda Ikeji’s blog:
Blessing was first taken to Ilupeju Police station where she was kept for a few days. Then on the 18th of August she was transferred to State CID Panti where she was kept for a while. She was then charged to magistrate court Ikeja, from where the magistrate remanded her in Kirikiri prisons to await advice from the Director of Public Persecution. The advise didn’t come until 2012. And his advice was for her to be charged under section 427 of the criminal code. (Crime about receiving stolen property).Then her story became public after a Punch reporter accompanied the Attorney-General of the state, Mr. Ade Ipaye, and representatives of the Office of the Public Defender on a visit to the prisons to evaluate the number of awaiting trial persons there. 3+ years awaiting trial. Sad, huh?Well, some of us got involved and she’s finally been charged to court for receiving of stolen property before a High Court of Lagos State sitting at Igbosere. Her case came up today 23rd May 2012, but the prison authorities did not bring Blessing to court, so the Judge adjourned to the 14th of June, 2012.
Celebrity blogger Linda Ikeji has taken a keen interest in the case and hopes to make it a cause célèbre, to get the wider public interested in the case and to get justice for the Blessing.