Family Laments As Teenager Languishes In Prison Without Trial
• Officials refuse to take defendant to court for eight months
By Oluwatobi Akindele
The family of Marvellous Udoh has lamented the refusal of officials of the Kikiriri Prison to bring her to court since her first arraignment. Marvellous was remanded in the Kirikiri Prison by the Epe Magistrates’ Court over the inability of her mother to perfect her bail condition.
It was gathered that since Marvellous’ first arraignment on November 13, 2018, prison officials have refused to bring her to court on subsequent adjourned dates. PUNCH Metro learnt that the Benue State indigene was employed as a domestic worker sometime in July 2018.
Marvellous had allegedly handed over her boss’ jewellery to some unknown men. Although Marvellous claimed that she was hypnotised, the boss insisted that she had a hand in the crime. She was arrested and arraigned before an Epe Magistrates’ Court on two counts of stealing.
The charges read, “That you, Marvellous Udoh, and others at large, on November 7, 2018, around 11.10am, at Plot 6 Road 1, Dominion Estate, Ajah-Lekki, Lagos, in the Epe Magisterial District, did conspire among yourselves to commit felony to wit; stealing, thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
“That you, Marvellous Udoh, on the same date, time and place, in the aforementioned magisterial district, did steal jewellery valued at N8m, property of one Olubunmi Damilola, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 287 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.”
The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges. The presiding magistrate granted her bail in the sum of N1m with two sureties in like sum, adding that the sureties must be gainfully employed with evidence of tax payment to the Lagos State Government and have their addresses verified by the court.
Marvellous claimed to be 17 years old at the time, but the charge sheet showed that she was 20, hence her remand in Kirikiri Prison as her mother was unable to perfect the bail conditions.
Marvellous’ mother, Victoria, lamented that since the first arraignment, her daughter had not been brought to court again. The 43-year-old widow added that she did not know her daughter’s fate since then as the trial had been stalled.
She said, “When she (Marvellous) finished her secondary school, she decided to work for some months before she would commence learning a trade in order not to be idle. We went to ask for the cost of apprenticeship agreement and we were told it was N50,000. I did not have any money and that was why I allowed her to go and work for those four months. She was supposed to stop working in December and start learning the trade by January of this year, but she got into trouble in November.
“She was admitted to bail for N1m with two sureties with landed property in Lagos. The court said it won’t accept sureties from Ogun State, where we are living; but since I don’t have money, she is still in remand. The prison officials have refused to bring my daughter to court on the subsequent adjourned dates.
“When we asked the prison officials why my daughter had not been brought to court, we were told that there was no provision for them to take people from Kirikiri to Epe. The also said that unless the matter is transferred to somewhere closer, she can’t be brought to court.
“During the last adjourned date, we asked for the process of transferring the case and we were told that the magistrate is on leave. The case was adjourned till August 22. The complainant also said she could only settle out of court if the family was ready to pay N400,000. I was only able to raise N100,000, but she insisted that she won’t collect it. The fate of my daughter is hanging in the balance.”
The Public Relations Officer, Nigerian Prisons Service, Lagos, Rotimi Oladokun, said a defendant would only be taken to court when a reproduction warrant was issued by the court.
He stated, “In the judicial process, when a defendant is arraigned and the plea is taken, they are remanded till the bail is perfected. The proper and the only procedure known is that once the court needs a defendant, it issues a reproduction summons and that defendant will be brought to that particular court.
“If there is an issue that a particular court can’t sit, maybe due to the fact that the magistrate or the judge is indisposed or some other things, we will be informed about the subsequent arrangement but that is at the discretion of the judiciary.
“What the family can do is to come and see their daughter in Kirikiri and once they sort out the bail, she will be released.”