AGBODEMU’S TRIAL STALLED BY PROSECUTION’S UNREADINESS

AGBODEMU'S TRIAL STALLED BY PROSECUTION'S UNREADINESS 3

Spaces for Change’s | S4C’s legal team represented popular housing rights activist, Ishola Agbodemu, (popularly known as SlumDweller), who is currently facing criminal charges because of his social media posts condemning the demolition and burning of informal communities by Lagos State authorities. The case came up for trial on the 20th of May at Court 9 of the Ebutte Metta Magisterial Division of Lagos State, following his arraignment and release on bail earlier in the month. His detention sparked significant public interest and outcry, particularly among civic actors and informal communities.

Agbodemu is facing charges of “breach of peace by offensive publication, publication of false news, and hateful statements” based on his social media posts condemning the recent forced evictions, naming the alleged masterminds and demanding accountability for victims numbering over 500 displaced residents of the Otto community in Lagos. His trial is seen as a watershed moment for housing rights protection in Lagos State, evincing how the right to free expression is dwindling in the face of repressive state policies and actions that have pushed the urban poor deeper into poverty while exacerbating forced displacement and homelessness.

The trial, however, could not proceed because the prosecution came to court ill-prepared. The prosecution requested an adjournment, citing the absence of their witnesses. Consistent with the Constitution and Criminal Procedure Rules, S4C’s legal team asked the court to order the prosecution to provide all particulars of the charges and evidence they intend to use in proving their case against Agbodemu. This request was based on Section 36(6)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), which mandates that any person charged with a criminal offence must be provided with the necessary facilities and materials to prepare his/her defence. The Court granted this request and ordered the prosecution to comply with the order. The matter was eventually adjourned to June 17.  S4C remains resolute to protecting the freedom of expression in Nigeria and delivers the legal representation of Agbodemu on a pro bono basis.

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