A man who was accused of stealing the purse of a woman he found on the floor at his working place and who was eventually charged to court for stealing has now regained his freedom after spending two years awaiting trial for the alleged offence.
During the two-year period of his awaiting trial, he lost his wife as the woman died of an undisclosed ailment.
The man, whose name was given simply as Shittu, and said to be an artisan, on September 1, 2019, went to the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, to work at the medical centre when he was invited to work on the Plaster of Paris (POS).
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According to reports, he saw a purse on the floor close to a car and he remembered that he saw the owner of the car entered a primary school opposite the medical centre where she came to drop her daughter.
Shittu later saw her outside and told her he kept the purse for her because he saw it on the floor and she was nowhere to be found. But unknown to him, according to the report, the woman had already informed the security men that she was looking for her purse.
According to a foundation, the Headfort Foundation (Prison Reform Initiative), which gave the details of the incident on its Twiter handle on Monday 13 September, 2022.
Immediately the guards saw him talking with the woman, they accused him of stealing and started beating him.
The security men were said to have reported the matter at the police station and Shittu was said to have eventually spent six months at office of the now defunct Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS).
He was charged to court on March 6, 2020 for the offence of stealing where he pleaded not guilty to the charge. The court however gave him some bail conditions.
But while awaiting trial and trying to perfect his bail, his wife died. Also, the University’s Chief Security Officer was said to have appeared in court twice and was told to produce the owner of the purse but he was reportedly unable to bring anyone.
However, the foundation, which usually visits courts and prisons in Lagos State, came across the man in one of its visits and one of its lawyers was told about his predicament.
The lawyer who eventually decided to take up the matter in order for him to get justice.
On realising that the man had been awaiting trial since 2019, the lawyer on September 5, 2022, urged the court to release him as keeping him in custody was an injustice to him as he had also lost his wife while awaiting trial.
The judge granted the request of the lawyer, struck out the case for want of diligent prosecution, then discharged and acquitted Shittu after he had spent two years awaiting trial.
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