A Lagos State Magistrate, Mrs. Funke Sule-Amzat, is under fire from many Nigerians for sending a fellow woman, Yetunde Osijo, mother of three children to Kirikiri prison. The show of power was displayed by the magistrate following a traffic dispute which occurred on Monday, between the two women at Ogudu end of the Oworonsoki area of Lagos, resulting from a minor accident that happened as Mrs. Osijo’s car scratched the magistrate’s Toyota Corrolla. This led to the magistrate chasing her to the Third Mainland Bridge area, where she ordered her arrest and subsequent arraignment in her court.
There were varrying accounts of the traffic disagreement between the two women. According to Osijo’s husband, Dipo, who spoke with Vanguard, said from the information he gathered from eyewitnesses, it was the magistrate’s driver that was wrong at the time of the minor accident. Yetunde, who bumped into the magistrate’s car assumed she would be asked to leave only to realise that Sule-Hamzat’s car was chasing her from behind.
Dipo also explained that his wife started driving in January, and that it was just a traffic offence that gave rise to a minor scratch. He said that the magistrate and her driver chased his wife and when they caught up with her, she was arraigned on the same day at about 5:30p.m, adding that the magistrate’s anger was fueled when his wife told her that her father was a former clerk at the House of Assembly, hence her decision to send her to prison right away.
A step by step account of the story was also given by an Instagram user, @steel_member, who disclosed that Osojo was taking one of her children to the hospital when the accident took place. In his first post on the day of the misfortune he wrote,
“Magistrate Sule-Amzat has just ordered that Yetunde Osijo be locked up in the Kirikiri Prison for scratching her car earlier today. However, it was the magistrate’s driver that was liable. At the time when the minor accident occurred, Osijo assumed she was asked to leave, only to realise that Sule-Amzat’s car was chasing her car. She stopped her car and the magistrate ordered that she be detained. She was today tried without a lawyer representing her at the court, and without the presence of the driver of the magistrate in court. In a speedy development, she was taken to Kirikiri in a Black Maria.
“She is a mother of three-year-old twin boys, and she was on her way with one of them to the hospital. Fellow Nigerians, please let us not allow the magistrate to abuse her office by detaining Osijo in Kirikiri. She is not a criminal. Let us not allow Osijo sleep in Kirikiri or in any jail. Say no to misuse of power and unlawful detention.”
And on the following, Tuesday, the Instagram user claimed that the police had taken a phone used in recording the incident and deleted the recordings, adding that Osijo was still in detention. He said:
“This is the second day and Osijo is still being unlawfully detained at the Kirikiri Prison on the orders of magistrate Sule-Amzat’s magistrate friend, Elias of Samuel Ilori Court House, Ogba, Lagos, at 5.30pm yesterday (Monday). Sule-Amzat is a magistrate at Ogudu in the Kosofe Local Council Development Area. Pictures and recordings taken at the scene were deleted by the police.
“She (Osijo) was rounded up by men of the Rapid Response Squad and taken away. This is about a scratch on magistrate Sule-Amzat’s car in a traffic tussle. Osijo was denied right to a counsel and the driver of the magistrate’s car was not even in court. Her car has also been impounded.”
Telling the story from another side of the mouth the Chief Registrar of Lagos State High Court, Mr. Emmanuel Ogundare, said the entire story as told by Mr Osijo was far from the truth. He said:
“How can a magistrate in Lagos, involved in an accident, order the arrest of the other party and arraign her in own court? This a judicial officer, who knows the implication of such actions. It was unfortunate that contrary to the report, the case was brought before Magistrate A. Elias, who sits in Ogba Chief Magistrate’s Court, that has the jurisdiction to handle the case from the area the accident happened.
“Can we say because she is a judicial officer, she is not entitled to complain to the police or be heard when her rights is trampled upon? The lady in question was arrested in Surulere, from Ogba where the incident occurred and taken to the police station, where her statement was taken. She was subsequently arraigned and granted bail in the sum of N100,000 with one surety in like sum, which is the least bail condition for such offence.
Nevertheless, Lagos State Government on Wednesday issued a statement signed by the Chief Registrar of the Lagos State High Court, Gbenga Ogundare, saying there was no truth in the claim, adding that the magistrate denied abusing her power.
The statement said the matter would have been resolved peacefully, but Osijo boasted of being connected with the powers that be. It read in part:
“On Monday, March 21, 2016, around 9am on her way to work, close to Abiola Gardens, Ojota, a car brushed Mrs. Funke Sule-Amzat’s car from behind. The magistrate’s driver alighted from the car and Yetunde Osijo, who drove the car, rained abuses on the driver and his boss. The magistrate stepped out to see the extent of the damage only for Yetunde Osijo to speed off in a dangerous manner.”
“She was eventually arrested by men of the RRS at Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, and taken to Area H Police Command, Ogba. The Area Commander made an attempt to resolve the matter but Yetunde Osijo insisted on calling her husband who came in and became very boastful.”
“The true position is that the magistrate, upon the occurrence of the incident, lodged a report with the police, who effected an arrest, and upon investigation, arraigned the suspect before the Chief Magistrate’s Court, Ogba presided over by Mr. T.A. Elias. She was immediately admitted to bail in liberal terms and the matter was adjourned for mention.
“The suspect was never arraigned before the complainant, Mrs. Funke Sule-Amzat, and she made no order or took any step in respect of the matter. The matter is presently pending before the court for determination.”
The accused was however said to have been released on Tuesday night as her family finally met up with the bail conditions.