BBN Special

After five years, embattled filmmaker Seun Egbegbe still remanded in jail

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Leshi Adebayo

It’s been four years and 11 months since embattled Nigerian filmmaker and socialite, Olajide Kazeem popularly known as Seun Egbegbe was incarcerated in Ikoyi Prisons, Lagos.

The reason for his prolonged unconstitutional remand in prison borders around his inability to fulfill the demands of his bail which has been granted since February 24, 2017.

A bail of 5 million naira with 2 sureties each in a sum of 2.5 million were the conditions to be met by the defendant, according to Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court, Lagos but till now he is unable to meet the requirements.

Background

The story began when Egbegbe was arrested in February 2017 for his alleged attempt to defraud a Bureau De Change (BDC) operator of 10 million Naira. He was then arraigned before a Federal High Court on February 10, 2017 by the Police Special Fraud Unit for alleged serial frauds involving N39, 098,100, $90,000 and £12,550.

Alongside with Egbegbe’s alleged accomplice, Oyekan Ayomide, he was faced with a 36-count charge of fraud between 2015 and 2017. The offences contravened the provisions of Section 8 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006.

According to the police, the duo defrauded no fewer than 30 Lagos-based Bureau De Change (BDC) operators between 2015 and February 2017. It was established that most of the time, they presented false foreign currencies to sell to the BDC operators (victims).

On hearing the count charges leveled against them, Egbegbe and Oyekan Ayomide pleaded not guilty to these charges. The case was then adjourned till March 24, 2017. Though between the space of the adjournment and March 2017, bail applications for both men had already been made and granted by the Judge Oguntoyinbo, as stated earlier.

On March 10, 2017, the prosecuting counsel amended and raised the count charges from 36 to 40, where Seun Egbegbe and Oyekan Ayomide were re-arraigned prematurely and they pled not guilty for the second time.

Now faced with 40 count charges, the two suspects were again re-arraigned the 3rd time on March 24, 2017.

Meanwhile, according to Premium Times, Egbegbe’s trial had been slowed down a couple of times because of the inability of the investigating officers (listed witnesses) to attend the court proceedings.

Aside from the bail demands not met, instances like the aforementioned partially contributed to Mr Egbegbe’s trial.

Failed to meet bail requirements

Earlier stated in this report was a bail of 5 million naira with 2 sureties each in a sum of 2.5 million naira already approved by Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court on February 24, 2017 for both Seun Egbegbe and Oyekan Ayomide.

Of the two defendants, only Oyekan Ayomide was able to fulfil the requirements of the bail at the time.

At the time of granting the bail application, it was stated by Justice Oguntoyinbo, as requirements to be met, that, “One of the sureties must be a civil servant who has attained level 16 while the other surety must be a land owner in any part of Lagos metropolis.”

”The landowner must submit a Certificate of Ownership of the landed property and while the civil servant must submit his international passport to the court.

“The sureties must swear to an affidavit while the house and office addresses and telephone number will be verified by the court,” the judge had said.

Now, the question many have been asking is how Seun Egbegbe has been unable to meet up with the bail requirements unlike his alleged accomplice.

Worthy of note is that during his heydays, Seun Egbegbe was financially extravagant on many occasions, bought cars for girlfriends, financed the production of some hit movies which earned him his reputation — all these and more pointed to the fact that Seun Egbegbe was financially capable. It is, therefore, somewhat far-fetched as to why Seun Egbegbe remains incarcerated till date.

In 2019, Premium Times reported the comments of Seun Egbegbe’s lawyer, Adebayo Onifade on why the accused remains in custody.

He was quoted as saying, “One of the boys who was arraigned alongside Seun has perfected his bail conditions and gone home and he isn’t as influential as my client. Even before I took up Seun’s case, he had already been granted bail and when I came on board I applied for a variation and it was granted. I think it is just a question of finance or family members.”

“By family members, I mean none of his family members are willing to come forward and stand as a surety for Seun. This might also be because no one has the money to pay for it. If a bail condition is yet to be perfected there is absolutely nothing any lawyer or a defence counsel can do about it.”

On the same reason for prolonged period in custody, in November 2020, Premium Times reported the expert opinion of a legal practitioner, Mr Olukoya Ogungbeje on the case.

Ogungbeje noted, “His counsel should have filed an application for variation of the bail conditions, probably because the conditions are stringent. For example, if his father lives in Lagos and has a landed property he can stand as a surety.

“Probably Egbegbe couldn’t afford the services of a good lawyer to take up the case, or he has been abandoned.”

“But you can’t blame the lawyer. Why can’t the Legal Aid Council and Human Rights Commission look into his matter? He remains innocent until proven guilty. His friends, especially in the Yoruba movie industry, should have come to his aid. You can’t blame the lawyer or the court. Maybe Seun has not lived up to his billing in terms of judicial fees etc. But I expected the lawyer to help,” he added.

Abandoned by family and colleagues

Again, in October 2020 according to Egbegbe’s lawyer, his family might have abandoned him.

He said, “We believe we have a very good defence. The only snag like I said yesterday in an interview, is that his friends and family appear to have abandoned him, else why will he be in custody when he has been granted bail over three years ago?’’

Even some of his colleagues in the industry who commented on the issue claimed to be unaware of his membership of any known Yoruba filmmaker professional bodies, making it difficult to assist him in fulfilling the demands of his bail.

A notable example is the comment of Bolaji Amusan (Mr Latin), the President of Theatre Arts and Motion Pictures Association of Nigeria (TAMPAN) on the matter.

According to Premium Times, when he was contacted, the veteran actor said, “Madam, I don’t have any comment when an issue is in court I have nothing to say about it. I have no comment.”

Also, Leye Kuti, a Nigerian actor, berated the actions of his colleagues at the time, for abadoning the embattled filmmaker at such a critical time but no one showed. At the time, he had already spent 31 months in prison, according to Premium Times.

Alternative to bail

Since the bail seemed not to be working out for Seun Egbegbe, clearly due to financial constraints and no sureties, there was a move to file no-case submissions.

A no-case submission means that the defendant is asking the court for an acquittal without it having to present a defence.

But, it was opposed by the police even after they contended that they failed to establish a prima facie case (prove the charges against them).

Still, having argued for a no-case submission twice in October 6 and November 18, 2020 respectively, which he lost in November 2021 after the Federal High Court ruled that the police had made a prima facie case against Seun Egbegbe.

The case was then adjourned till January 12, 2021. Having established all the possible details that contributed to the 5-year incarceration of Seun Egbegbe and still counting, no one at this time can possibly tell if the accused has any fight left in him.

Hopefully, the law will look into alternatives that can at least give Seun Egbegbe a breather from his undue remand in Ikoyi Prisons.

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