The man who was condemned to death – narrated his story to Joint Legal Action Aids after his release from prison. Read below;
HOW IT STARTED.
I trained as a photographer but back in the 80s I didn’t have enough photography work to sustain me so I worked with my father who traded in cattle. My father was an old man so I joined him and I used to go to the bush to buy the animals. I was married with two sons….
That year, as the time for the Ileya Festival drew closer, we were going to supply some companies with cattle so I had to go and buy them from Niger state. He listed all the things that I was going to buy – cows, rams and goats. I left Lagos on the 30th of May, 1988 to Gwari in Niger state. I had to go inside the bush to select the animals I wanted so that I would get a trailer to convey them to Lagos.
Because of the language barrier, I needed an interpreter for the negotiations. We were in the bush when some policemen came and asked me if I was a visitor. I said yes, I was a visitor that I had been coming to the village for many years. The man said they were looking for people who ran into the bush.
I said I didn’t know anything about it that I was selecting rams there. Then they arrested me and took me to the police station even though the interpreter told them I had been coming to the village for some time.
The next day, the 1st of June, they said the case could not be handled at that station and it was transferred to the State CID at Niger. From there they transferred me to Ilorin in Kwara state. All the while, I never knew what they were accusing me of. After a week, some policemen came from Lagos, they said they were from the Anti-Terrorsist squad and they conveyed me and some people that were arrested with me to Lagos.
PAIN , TORTURE AND TRIAL
They took me to Adeniji Adele Police Station, Lagos. That was when they started giving me hell. They hung me, beat and tortured me. That was the day I knew they were accusing me of murder. They said somebody was killed in Lagos and his car was snatched and they later found the car around the village where I was in Gwari.
The policemen said the people fled into the bush that was why they were looking for visitors around that area. All the while I had no idea why I had been arrested. The confessional statement in my case file, they wrote it themselves and forced me to sign. After that they transferred me to Ikoyi Prison and that was where they resumed another round of torture.
I spent almost 9 months there before they took me to court with four other men. I didn’t even know those men. They charged us all for conspiracy to murder. My lawyer told me to plead ‘Not Guilty’ so I did and from there they took me to Kirikiri Medium Security Prison.
They put me in a condemned cell. It was hell on earth. They kept 9 of us in a very small room. That was where we took our bath, ate, slept, defecated and eased ourselves. There were no beds. Who would give us beds? By law, they don’t let any condemned man come out. But sometimes, they let us out for about one hour in a day. Life in the prison was very rough. There, I hardly slept. The prison authorities gave us food but not good food.
WIFE AND CHILDREN
As a young woman, if my wife was my sister, I would have even advised her to marry someone else because no one knew when I was going to come out. I won’t advice my sister to wait for a man who doesn’t have hope of coming out. She has married again and I don’t feel bad about it. My children used to come once in a while but they don’t really know me. Now that I am out, they will know me better.
THE CALL TO CHANGE AND GO HOME.
On the 5th of June 2012, they called me to come to the Welfare Unit to get the progress of my case. I said I wasn’t not going there. Some people that were sitting with me said I should go but I said I wasn’t going, that they will just be lying to me. Later I called Pastor Popoola. He said “Egbon” (Big brother), I said “wetin be dat” (what is it?). He said “o ti sele o” (It has happened). He said the court of Appeal has let me go. I just started shouting, I didn’t know what to do, how to thank him. I was very happy.