Naira Marley: The Many Troubles of the ‘Marlian President’

by Afolayan Adebiyi

When Afeez Fashola, a popular street singer, by the name Naira Marley, hit the music scene a few years back, it was with a loud bang. He rapidly cultivated a cult-like following of young fans, with his Marlian Movement. He is their President.

These fans were proud to be called ‘Marlians’, just like the iconic Fela Anikulapo-Kuti in the mid-seventies. He instantly turned the rave of the moment, displacing all the old hands, and pushing them off the stage. The microphone now belongs to him, and him alone, and those whom he ordained.

Fela Kuti - Feferity

The Late Abami Eda, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti

While Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the charismatic Afrobeats lord of the seventies and eighties, reigned and built his support base around his destroyed ‘Kalakuta Republic’, with his fans thronging the ‘African Shrine’ daily, Marley’s mob was scattered all over but were united in unrestrained consumption of drugs and other illicit substances. Popularly called Marlian President, the controversial singer, Naira Marley, who had a cult-like following, lives a mysterious lifestyle that dumbfounded many. He was said to be super rich and well-connected. But, it is instructive to note that his rise to prominence was at the apogee of the rise of the illicit ‘Yahoo Yahoo’ boys, a social dilemma in the nation’s battle to rid herself of slush funds.  He sang ‘I am Yahoo Yahoo’. The boys, his patrons went wild.

Now embattled. He fighting for his freedom from multiple fronts. Aside from the cyberbullying and harassment charge the police may preferred against him in the Mohbad’s death case, his troubles seemed unending as the singer and label boss, Azzez Fashola popularly known as Naira Marley, may have more troubles coming his way as a judge of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, has issued a production warrant against controversial and weird ‘Marlian boss.’

While the open flirtations with the internet fraudsters, nebulously called ‘Yahoo Yahoo’ was a side thing, inner room affairs, doing drugs was an open show. The Marlian mob would soon become notorious for all manner of illicit drugs and substances, both on and off the music arena. Not long ago, the nation’s anti-illegal drugs agency, NDLEA had to enroll Naira Marley himself to reach his fans with the message of the negative effects of doing drugs. The campaign recorded zero success, rather it was embroiled in controversy, needing frantic public relations damage control by the agency to exculpate its name from the unrepentant drug addicts.

Naira Marley and the NDLEA team-Feferity

Naira Marley and the NDLEA team

Now, if drugs would not manacle the singer down, if his controversial end-of-life relationship with another artist, Ilerioluwa Aloba, popularly known as Mohbad, would not hold him down, his internet fraudulent activities seemed to have trapped him in a delicate cobweb of the law. Since that Tuesday (12 September), when his former signee, Ilerioluwa Aloba, aka Mohbad, died in controversial circumstances things have been rough and tough for him. This is further compounded by some viral video clips that appeared shortly before Mohbad’s death, where had cried out that he was being harassed and assaulted by people allegedly acting on the orders of Marley because he left Marlian Music.

Once Mohbad’s death became public, the voice in the streets was in unison pin-pointing Marley as the mastermind of the mysterious death. He was called out severally. Many called for his arrest based on nothing more than the cryptic cry of Mohbad in the throes of pain and emotional turmoil. Naira Marley suffered hugely over Mohbad’s death. Over a million followers on popular social media handles, Instagram quickly unfollowed him.  However, he insisted that he was not in the country at the time of Mohbad’s death, and would return if the police could guarantee his safety.

He eventually arrived in the country on Tuesday, (03 October), through the MMA2, Ikeja, Lagos, and right awaiting his arrival were men of the Lagos State Police Command. He landed straight into the waiting hands of police officers, who whisked him away to the Lagos State Police Command’s Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Panti, Yaba, Lagos. Both Marley and his friend-patron, Sam Larry are presently cooling off their heads at State CID, Panti, Yaba, Lagos State.

But the Panti experience and Mohbad’s issue may not be the only knot Marley may have to untie with the legal brilliance of a lawyer. He needs to find a way to extricate himself from the litany of the internet fraud allegations against him before a Federal High Court, also in Lagos soon. Justice Nicholas Oweibo of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Friday, (06 October), issued a production warrant against him. He is to be produced in court unfailingly on 30 October. The judge ordered Naira Marley’s lawyer, Olalekan Ojo (SAN) to produce the singer who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on 11-count charges bordering on conspiracy and credit card fraud, in court on October 30.

Speaking on the development, the spokesperson for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Dele Oyewale, said, “The production warrant issued by the judge today has compelled Naira Marley’s lawyer, Olalekan Ojo to produce the singer in court at the next adjourned date, which is October 30. It is not the duty of the EFCC to take the singer from police custody.” According to the statement later issued by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday via the X platform, Naira Marley is being prosecuted on 11-count charges bordering on conspiracy and credit card fraud.

The statement reads, “Justice Nicholas Oweibo of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Friday, October 5, 2023, issued a production warrant against Nigerian singer, Azeez Fashola, also known as Naira Marley.

Naira Marley being escorted by law enforcement officials.

Naira Marley being escorted by law enforcement officials.

“Naira Marley is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on 11-count charges bordering on conspiracy and credit card fraud. “At the resumed sitting on Friday, counsel to the defendant, Olalekan Ojo, SAN informed the court that the defendant was unavoidably absent from court owing to his being detained by the Police for interrogation in respect of the murder of Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba, also known as Mohbad. “Ojo, therefore, prayed the court for an adjournment of the trial. “Responding, prosecution counsel, Bilkisu Buhari, however, prayed the court to issue a production warrant against the defendant to ensure his presence in court on the next adjourned date. “Justice Oweibo granted the prayers of the prosecution counsel and issued a production warrant against the defendant. “The judge further adjourned the matter till October 30, 2023 for continuation of trial.” You will recall that the police confirmed earlier on Friday that there is ample evidence against Naira Marley and socialite, Balogun Olamilekan Eletu aka Sam Larry assaulted the late singer Mohbad, while the deceased was alive.

Alagba Afolayan Adebiyi writes from Lagos, Nigeria

Images, courtesy of Google

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