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Edo Court Affirms Citizens’ Right to Record Police Arrest, Frees Tricycle Rider

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BENIN CITY, Nigeria — An Edo State Magistrate Court has dismissed charges against a tricycle rider for riding in a Government Reserved Area, GRA, and against a man for videoing a police arrest, in a case highlighting concerns over police overreach and a lack of due process.

Brighton Odion, who was riding his tricycle along Limit Road in Benin City, was arrested on July 26, 2022, by the Nigeria Police Force’s New Etete Division, accused of violating a governor’s order restricting tricycle movement in that area. He was charged when he refused to bribe the police.

Mr. Vision Nelson was also arrested and charged for taking pictures of Odion’s arrest, being accused of being an unregistered photographer and unlicensed journalist, and for using his Android phone to record the event.

However, the court ruled in favor of both defendants, striking out the charges against them.

The Chief Magistrate in Evbuoriaria Magistrate Court 5, Sapele Road, Benin City, declared that “videoing or recording in a public place is not an offence, citizens have rights to do recordings anywhere, anytime.”

Furthermore, the magistrate stated that there is no law in Edo State banning or restricting tricycle movement on major roads or streets.

The case was struck out for lack of merit, as the police were unable to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Edo Civil Society Organisations, EDOCSO, welcomed the judgment, stating that justice might be delayed but can never be denied.

They called on the leadership of the Nigeria Police Force to ensure properly trained and educated personnel man divisions to avoid such embarrassment.

The group also expressed frustration with what appears to be the police’s tendency to charge suspects without considering the final implications, leading to the wastage of time and resources on frivolous pursuits of non-existent criminal cases.

EDOCSO’s statement also made clear that any further harassment of tricycle riders in Edo state by police officers would be seen as contempt of court, and they will ensure the full wrath of the law takes its course.

This case serves as a reminder of the importance of proper legal process and police accountability.

It underlines the need for comprehensive police training and adherence to the rule of law, and it illustrates the essential role of civil society organisations and the courts in upholding citizens’ rights.

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