awaiting trial

Mohbad’s case mates

By Mrs. Kanayo Olisa-Metuh  The news of Mohbad’s demise hit Ikemefuna Okafor hard, when it filtered into prison. He was a fan, had fashioned his rapping around Mohbad’s easy-flow style. They were both the same age, a mere 27. Ikem grieved at the icon’s death, but also, his own. For, in his mind, Ikem too was dead.  Four years to the day, Ikem had been picked up by a SARS patrol near the studio. His was the stock look of his trade – ripped jeans, dreadlocks and tattoos. Explanation fell on deaf ears, the beating increasing the more he tried. He was a suspect. For what exactly, no one said. Until he met his “case mates”, two months later, on his first day out of that stinking police cell, in court. The case mate system – that astonishing phenomenon of our criminal justice administration. Complete strangers, randomly and separately arrested in far-flung places, charged together for an offence that never occurred. The reason? To clear space in police cells for new detainees. Once charged to court, detainees now “accused persons” – are moved on to prison, to the torture chamber called awaiting trial facilities. Robbery was the case they gave Ikem, with two other unfortunates, his case mates. An only child of a single-mother hawker, Ikem had no one to bail him. Emaciated, wracked by disease, body covered in rashes and sores oozing pus, he currently looks something from the “feem” Resident Evil. Long gone are the dreads, replaced by suppurating blisters on a prematurely bald scalp. The melodious voice? Distant memory too. Ikem only croaks now. Apart from that one day in court, Ikem has never left prison in four years. Longer residents of the Awaiting Trial (Male) cell told him that it was common, that his case file, if there ever was one, is probably, nay certainly, lost. Like theirs. At first, Ikem prayed for salvation. But the longer the days from his arrest, the less he did. Eventually, he stopped. The mental and physical torture, the suffering, pain, and anguish were just too much. He is convinced he’s been cursed. Perhaps a generational curse. Because what else can make people be this wicked to a fellow human being? Ikem and thousands like him, and their case mates, are still in a Nigerian prison near you, right now, this very moment, suffering indescribably. As of this year, out of 74,872 inmates in Nigerian prisons, only 22,933, less than one-third, are convicted prisoners. And 51,939 are awaiting trial. And by law, they are all presumed innocent. Until you see prison conditions in Nigeria, you will probably not know what real suffering is. And when you see the ATM cell in most prisons, you will wonder how much worse hell can get. Nigerian prisons, now re-baptised “correctional centres”, are emblematic of our greatest failings as a nation and people. They are a testament to our uniform inability, whatever the tribe, tongue or creed, to care about problems that afflict the masses, talk less of solving them. As you “feel among” today by fulminating on Instagram, albeit rightly, over Mohbad’s untimely death, spare a thought for his innocent Nigerian “case mates”, wishing for death as a release from the Nigerian correctional facility. Like Ikemefuna Okafor, erstwhile rapper, and fine boy, to whom Nigeria happened in the worst possible kind of way. Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction; Ikemefuna Okafor and the events are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead or actual events is purely coincidental.

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Legend DA’s Story

Legend DA (Not his real name) was arrested in 2018 and charged with armed robbery and homicide. DA always maintained his innocence. He was remanded in Kuje Correctional Center and was kept awaiting trial for 4 years. Our team took up his case and in 2022, DA was discharged after the Judge granted a motion praying the court to strike off his name from the charge due to lack of evidence against him. LGCF helped DA with transport money back to Kogi, where he is now reunited with his family.

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Legend Ehimen Osahon’s Story

I, Ehimen Osahon, hails from Edo State. I have an NCE in Computer education/Accounting, and BSc in Education management. Prior to my arrest on November 7th, 2016, I lost my job as a banker with United Bank for Africa Plc and as a married man with a wife and two kids I have to get a boxer (modern J5) to start a food business. I buy and sell and transport plantain, pawpaw and pineapple to different places such as Abuja, Kaduna, Onitsha, Port-Harcourt etc. for survival hoping and praying for a better white-collar job. On this fateful day, I was approached by one Mr. Emma to help him convey some items to Kaduna and transport cost was agreed upon. I didn’t know in detail what and what I was to carry, but on getting to the location where the items were, I discovered it was cannabis sativa (Marijuana also called Igbo). I gave him a very high price in other to discourage him from using me to carry the items but to my greatest surprise he agreed to the price and I carried the items. On my way to Abaji I was apprehended by officers of the NDLEA and thus arrested, after three months in their custody, I was arraigned by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja. I spent 2 years and eight months awaiting trial and he (Justice Okon Abang) struck out my case on the instance of the prosecutor lacking evidence to prosecute me. However, I was re-arraigned on the same case before Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu who later sentenced me to seven years imprisonment (but to spend 4 years and 8 months). While in custody, not to waste my effective life, I picked up a master degree programme in Education administration and Planning with the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), January, 2018. It was a tuition free programme, but other expenses were borne solely by the inmates. Therefore, the research project writing is a big bottleneck, since I don’t have the funds to finance it. Then, Legend Golden Care Foundation (LGCF) came to my rescue. Firstly, LGCF organised a Bible quiz competition for inmates at the Kuje Correctional Centre. The first prize for the competition was N20,000.00 and I won it and spent the proceeds on my project work, The Organisation, impressed at how an inmate could be running a master degree programme with the abysmal conditions in the correctional facility promised to continue from there. Since then, all other expenses I incurred to finish the programme came from LGCF and they even promised to give me a job once I am out of the walls of the Correctional Facility. On July 8, 2021 I was released, LGCF invited me to their office and gave me an employment letter, but first asked me to go back to Benin City to see my family and come back to resume once I am ready, they even gave me accommodation. There is this societal stigmatisation on ex-inmate, personally where to go, where to start from, how do I fit into the society and avoid recidivism, where all over me. But my integration into the society became very easy thanks to LGCF. Today, I have a place to stay in Abuja, I have a job to do in Abuja, and my family has reunited with me here in Abuja, all thanks to God Almighty and Legend Golden Care Foundation. I’ll forever be grateful to LGCF.

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Executive director giving speech

Press Conference on Awaiting Trial Syndrome

Legend Golden Care Foundation had a media press briefing on the Awaiting Trial Syndrome in Nigeria held at the Office of the foundation on 27th October 2022 with various stakeholders in attendance which included; the  Representatives of a member of the house of representatives (chairman house committee on judiciary), Ministry of Justice, Nigeria Correctional Service, Civil Society Organizations, legal practitioners and the media.  The purpose of the event was to present the communique to the public and as well get the stakeholders to adopt the recommendations from the stakeholder’s dialogue held on the 22nd of September 2022.

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