Imprisoned without trial, tales of Nigerian prisoners

Kirikiri prison

Kirikiri prison

Former inmates of the kirikiri prison recall their journeys to the prisons without trial, filled with police intimidation

Two hundred and thirty three (233) inmates of the kirikiri prisons were freed on September 18, 2012 by the chief judge of Lagos.

The chief judge, Adeyoola Phillips, said that the move was to release inmates who had been “illegally or unjustly” imprisoned.

“If you don’t deserve to be here, you shouldn’t be here,” Mrs. Phillips said.

The freed inmates had been awaiting trial for 4 – 12 years. Some had never walked into the court room prior to their journey to detention.

In 2008, a 21 year old Mr. Ewuga was marched into the Maximum Security Prison over an alleged robbery offence. He had been in detention since a year earlier at the Ikoyi Prisons before his relocation.

Mr. Ewuga said he was waiting to board a bus, at about 7.30p.m., from Lekki to Jakande when a patrol van, consisting of mostly plain clothed police men, swooped in on him.

“They asked what am I doing there. I showed them my ID card. I was a student of Famous Comprehensive Secondary School, at the same time a barber,” said Mr. Ewuga, who was then in his final year in school.

“They said I should enter motor, that I’m a criminal, a part of the people that used to rob in that area. I had to obey them,” the 24 year old added.

A similar fate befell Moshood Ganiyu, who was returning from a football viewing centre about four years ago.

“I heard shouting on the road, the people met me and run past me. Later, they run and meet me again and said that I’m one of the people they are looking for,” said Mr. Ganiyu, 39, a native doctor at Alakuko.

“There’s one police station in the area. The people said they are going to report me, because some of them know my face. Some people told me to go and report them first.

“But before I reach station, those people have reached before me, so police said that they are the complainant and I am the criminal,” Mr. Ganiyu said.

Another freed inmate, Samu Lawal, 32, said that the police asked him and his friend – at the time they were arrested on their way back from a night party – to pay N250, 000 to secure their freedom.
His friend paid up and was released.

The ‘bail’ fee later reduced to N170, 000, but they were able to bargain for N150, 000.

“Before we could bring the money, they took us to Panti, said we were armed robbers, put cutlasses at our front, that we used it to rob,” said Mr. Lawal.

Moses Igige, who hawked sausage rolls in traffic at Obalende, shared a similar story.

Mr. Igige, 28, said that after the police arrested him, he was asked to buy his freedom for N25, 000.

“After I took him to where I was selling… I told them I don’t him I don’t have any money, so he took me to court,” Mr. Igige said.

Prior to last week’s release, there were 3,265 inmates in both the Maximum and Medium Security Prisons.
About 2,378 – 73 percent – were awaiting trial; 124 convicted; and 4 sentenced to life.

The Deputy Comptroller of Prisons at the facility, Olumide Tinuoye, described the continued incarceration of the young men without trial as “an act of injustice.”

“If they have been sentenced, they’ll know they are suffering for the offence which they have committed,” Mr. Tinuoye said.

“I don’t know how easy it will be now to be able to convict somebody who have been in the prison for 12 years.”

Culled from Premium Times