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Prison yard is hell, says man, 49, who regains freedom after 7 years in prison without trial

Posted by By GABRIEL DIKE, Osogbo on 2008/07/05 | Views: 3163 |

Prison yard is hell, says man, 49, who regains freedom after 7 years in prison without trial


It was sweet freedom for a man who was detained in prison for seven years based on unjustified allegations. The victim of the unlawful incarceration, Mr. Tajudeen Atanda, recently painted a tragic picture of the condition of inmates describing Nigerian prisons a hell.

It was sweet freedom for a man who was detained in prison for seven years based on unjustified allegations. The victim of the unlawful incarceration, Mr. Tajudeen Atanda, recently painted a tragic picture of the condition of inmates describing Nigerian prisons a hell.

The 49 year-old Tajudeen Atanda who had just been released from the Federal Prison, Ilesa in Osun State lamented his arrest and detention without just cause by the state Police command.

Tajudeen secured his freedom through the efforts of the Osun State Ministry of Justice under Barrister Niyi Owolade who directed lawyers in the ministry to file a nolle prosequi to secure his immediate release from prison custody.

Indeed, it was mother luck that played a part in the release of Atanda whose case was championed by the Osun NYSC legal Aid Club, which discovered him in detention during one of their visits and took up his case with the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Owolade.
According to the victim: "There are still many people and I can count up to eight in Ilesa Prison, who have been languishing in jail for more than seven years without being taken to court. Some have died without their relations knowing of their death in custody. Those of us that survived the unlawful detention is by the grace of God because the condition in the prison is terrible. Prison yard is a hell. I cannot even pray that my worst enemy be incarcerated in any Nigerian prison."

Atanda, who said he was a professional driver before his unlawful incarceration, disclosed that his journey to prison started in 2001 at a village called Igbo-Oro near Idominasi in Obokun Local Government of Osun State.

The victim a native of Osogbo stated that he moved to Igbo-Oro where his father had cocoa and kolanut plantation to take care of the farm after he lost his father, Mr. Tijani Ajani whose large cocoa farm was doing well and he was looking forward to a good harvest in 2001.
Atanda said that he joined a bi-weekly a cooperative contribution group in the village with a total collection of N9,000, noting that "When it was my turn to take the contribution, I allowed my friend Lateef Akanmu to take the contribution with a promise that I would take his turn.

But when it was my turn to take the contribution, the organisers said that they would not give it to me but to another person,". He continued: "My fellow contributors placed the collection of N9,000 on the table and I took it. But they went to the police station at Ibokun to report that I used cutlass to rob them of the money. The police believed their story and took me to their station at Ibokun, headquarter of Obokun Local Government. I was taken to court and from there to Ilesa Prison in 2001 and since then I was never taken to court again.

"I have been in Ilesa Prison since then. Prison is a hell. Every day, the prison warders would give us beans in the morning, two tins of Gari in the afternoon and another two tins of Gari in the evening. That was the daily routine. When we fall sick, there is no medical care. Many people have died in the prison in my presence. The warders would use the blanket which we are using to cover his face and they would take him away for burial. The warders are always happy to carry the corpses of dead prisoners because we learnt they use human parts for medicine," he alleged.

The former driver, who said that he had a wife and two children before he was unlawfully detained stated that he had not set eyes on his wife or the two kids; Mutiu and Kafaya, since he arrived his home, at Sobaloju Compound, Isale-Osun, Osogbo adding: "I donít know whether they are dead or alive?"
Atanda, who commended the Ministry of Justice and the NYSC Legal Aid Club for securing his release from detention said that he would never go back to Igbo-Oro village to look after the farm of his father noting "God has saved me. I have forgotten about the farm and I have left it completely to the people who are after my life. They are now free to take it but I know that God who is the silent judge will do the right thing."

The Osun State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Owolade, said that members of the NYSC who were serving in the ministry discovered the pathetic case of the victim said that his long term detention in prison was a mistake of a number of stakeholders in the justice delivery system .
Owolade said that Atanda was incarcerated for seven years without trial lamenting that: "Assuming a judge sent a person accused of manslaughter to prison, the sentence would not be more than seven years.

"We have to flush out this type of thing from our legal system. The stakeholders in the justice system must come together because I believe that with the coming together of stakeholders, I think that the magistrate who is handling the case will be able to ask questions on why the suspect is being kept in prison custody for a long time without trial".

The number one law officer of the state promised that the government would rehabilitate Atanda by providing him employment and promised that this kind of injustice to people would never happen again.
The leader of the NYSC lawyers posted to the ministry, Mr. Yusuf Funso Ismail told Daily Sun that the aim of the club was to provide free legal services to indigent members of the society who had genuine cases or who were maliciously being prosecuted.

Ismail, a law graduate of the University of Ilorin said that there was no case file in the case of Atanda who had been kept in prison custody since year 2001 said that: "When the case of Atanda was first discovered in January, we discovered that there was no case file. When we discovered this, we wanted to go to court but we later decided to petition the Attorney General who entered a nolle prosequi to free the suspect from custody."

The corps member disclosed that the NYSC Legal Aid Club had secured bail for many accused persons in Osun State, describing the prison, police and the courts as good supporting partners even as he expressed gratitude to the state NYSC coordinator, Barrister Godwin Onukwe for supporting the NYSC Legal Aid Club.

He revealed that there are many Atandas in the state prison being detained on minor offences that would not require jail sentence but fine and promised that with the support of the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, his colleagues would visit other prisons to search and secure their release through the normal legal process.

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