The celebrity son of legendary afrobeat singer Fela Anikulapo regained his freedom on Tuesday, after spending 8 days in Police custody. His Lawyers said he had met his bail conditions before his detention was extended by the Court on the prompting of the Police. It has been more than a week-long of ordeals for Seun
The celebrity son of legendary afrobeat singer Fela Anikulapo regained his freedom on Tuesday, after spending 8 days in Police custody. His Lawyers said he had met his bail conditions before his detention was extended by the Court on the prompting of the Police. It has been more than a week-long of ordeals for Seun Kuti, his family members and numerous supporters.
It all started on Friday, May 13, 2023, as an altercation between a citizen and a law enforcement Officer on the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos. There is a viral video showing the Afrobeat musician slapping a police officer, but the incidence leading to that event will be ascertained in Court. There were reports that after the incident, there was a rapprochement between the two and the matter assumedly resolved amicably between the two until the video surfaced to raise tempers and fan the embers of hatred against the perceived aggressor.
As Seun Kuti, later explained on his Instagram page later on that day, he claimed that the police officer attempted to kill him and his family, stating that he had proof of his allegation. He added the police officer had apologised to him, thereby making the case settled. But, no one has heard directly from the assaulted police officer but the Police spokesperson had been rendering narratives on his behalf some of which may not appeal to discerning minds.
The Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba called for the arrest of Seun Kuti. A statement from the Force’s spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi, noted that “IGP Usman Alkali Baba assures Nigerians that acts of contempt/disdain for symbols of authority will not be tolerated, while offenders of such hideous crimes will be surely brought to book.”
Quietly, the afrobeat musician turned himself in at the Police Headquarters and was later transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department at Panti in Yaba, Lagos State. This led to his arraignment at the Yaba magistrate court, where the police requested a remand order for 21 days so they could complete their investigation. The Police, it would appear took Seun’s matter more than the usual assault cases out there and this was demonstrated in different ways. It does not appear ordinary that a person who walked up to a Police station to report himself would still be put in chains and paraded like a common criminal fished out from hiding. After the Court admitted him to bail with conditions the Police surreptitiously (without informing his Lawyers) returned to the Court to request for more days in detention for Seun Kuti, which the Court granted.
Not done, the Police expanded their investigation by searching the musician’s home twice looking for exhibits to further implicate him. A case of assault wouldn’t ordinarily merit this rigorous and laborious investigation. In several instances such cases are settled at the Police station, sometimes with the expression of an apology. But Seun bears a bigger burden. The burden of a name – Kuti – with agelong no love lost history in relationship with the Nigerian Police. Worse still the Police made the officer who had been assaulted anonymous some said he was in a coma.
The event has triggered diverse reactions from Nigerians, while some have criticized the singer for submitting himself to the lowest levels of society’s expectations of him, others have accused the police of ignoring the law and persecuting him for being a strong voice against injustice in the country. Seun Kuti was an active participant in the EndSARS struggle which was to end Police brutality and high-handedness against the citizens.
A senior lawyer, Ebunoluwa Adegboruwa, SAN has commented twice on the incident. In his first write-up, he condemned the singer’s show of gangsterism despite his scholarship, exposure, and family-rich heritage. Buttressing his displeasure with the singer’s illegal behaviour, Adegboruwa noted that Seun committed a criminal act against section 34 of the Nigerian constitution. He wrote: “I watched with shock, disbelief, bewilderment, amazement and chagrin, a viral video where Afrobeat rising star, who should otherwise be the product of a rich heritage of revolutionary struggles, patriotism and selflessness, descended on a cultured policeman, assaulting him, provoking him and in the process also humiliating him and the agency that he represents”.
But in his second article, he was more reflective Barrister Ebun Adegboruwa and titled it Police v Kuti: Persecution in Prosecution. He gave additional insight into what may transpired between the Police Officer and Seun Kuti. Hear him: “It has now transpired that the police officer was an official driver with the Nigeria Police Force, he was reportedly drunk and driving dangerously on the expressway in such a manner that constituted danger to Seun and other motorists, leading to the incident that led to Seun’s incarceration.
“As expected of any responsible citizen, Seun surrendered himself to the Police, in the company of his counsel, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. We watched with shock how the Police bungled that encounter, by filming Seun in handcuffs and parading him on social meida, for a simple offence that was bailable.” The learned silk asked: “What is the strategy of the Police in this case? Mainly to keep Seun in custody for as long as possible. And this is the bane of the criminal justice system in Nigeria, to the extent that law enforcement agencies take prosecution as some kind of vendetta on behalf of the nominal complainant. The energy spent in opposing bail for defendant by the prosecuting agencies is unnecessary and, in most cases, it would drain them of the steam needed for the main case”
Another Legal practitioner, Liborious Oshoma condemned the Afrobeat Singer for engaging in such an illegal act, claiming that the musician failed to respect the authority of Nigeria police as an institution. “As a lawyer, even when we plead the defence of provocation, that defence can only avail you if there’s no intervening period within which your temper would have to calm down.”
Conversely, Seun’s sympathisers have put up a spirited defense. With some indicting the police for failing to treat his case with fairness and equity.
Lanre Arogundade, journalist and human rights and press freedom activist gave a different perspective saying that Seun being a victim of police brutality in the past should be given a fair chance to defend himself on the matter without being subjected to mob justice. “It is the above knowledge that informs why activists and unionists, particularly we socialists, while fighting against every act of Police brutality also demand for union rights for the rank and file and improved welfare for them. That is why I said earlier that both Seun and the police officer involved in the matter at hand are, in a sense, victims who should be waging collective struggle against a system that brutalises all.
Finally, while it is normal and welcome for activists or critics to be subjected to higher level of scrutiny in their public conduct or misconduct, they should however neither be subjected to mob justice nor denied what they normally demand of others in similar circumstances; which is that whoever is alleged should be allowed to freely defend him/herself in a law court. Power Show, which again Fela sang about, cannot and should not be the alternative”
Additionally, a statement made in support of Seun Kuti by the human rights organization Youth Rights Campaign acknowledged the illegality of Seun’s act against the police. However, the group noted that the level of police brutality to Nigerians is higher than the allegation against the Afrobeat singer.
With his release from police custody on bail, Seun Kuti’s ordeals seem to have come to a temporary end. But what many Nigerians want is for this case to be brought to a permanent conclusion shortly. If Seun Kuti could settle with the alleged assaulted officer same day; that is indicative of a contrite heart and justice should not be prolonged again. Justice does not always end in a conviction. It is expected that Police would try and end the agelong animosity between that institution and the Kuti family using this Seun’s saga to point the way forward.