Posted by By Chioma Okezie-Okeh on
Sometime in the October 2007, baby Onyekachi was born with no guilt or offence. Though he is innocent, and came to the world a free entity, he was welcomed by the waiting hands of midwives within the prison walls at Kirikiri.
Sometime in the October 2007, baby Onyekachi was born with no guilt or offence. Though he is innocent, and came to the world a free entity, he was welcomed by the waiting hands of midwives within the prison walls at Kirikiri. After the initial joy that welcomed him, he was taken straight into prison custody while other babies born alongside him went to the comfort of their homes to enjoy freedom.
A cell where criminals and suspects are locked up has become this baby’s home. And for six months he has remained in the prisons and there is no hope of his leaving there. The crime he committed is that his mother who was pregnant when she was arrested is being accused of committing an offence.
By extension, the prison authorties are detaining baby Onyekachi alongside his mother when there was actually no sentence pronounced on him to justify his being in prison.
Baby Onyekachi has been compelled by circumstances, not actually within his control to start life the hard way. His lot is the cold prison floor for bed, poor breast milk from a poorly fed mother, and the sad faces of prisoners who are no longer happy with life.
However, with the aid of his newly found friend, an NGO, Onyekachi, is contending that his rights to freedom have been terribly breached.
No child’s play
The little baby is not taking the matter like a child’s play, so he wants his freedom and has sued the federal government, the Inspector General of Police Attorney General of the Federation, the Comptroller General of Prisons and other officers of the law asking for his freedom. His lawyer, Mrs. Patricia Onyenweaku insists that baby Onyekachi’s fundamental human rights have been thrown to the dogs and he wants a redress immediately.
The pressure for the baby’s release started when a Non-Governmental Organization, Child’s Rights Advancement & Protection Initiative (CRAPI) spotted him during one of its visit to prisons.
The suit is pending at the Federal High Court in the Lagos (suit No FHC/L/CS/202/08) as an application for the enforcement of the applicant’s fundamental rights to life, dignity, survival, proper development and family life and freedom.
Already, Baby Onyekachi has got a leave of court to sue for the enforcement of his rights, which he argues have been grossly violated. The counsel, Mrs. Onyenweaku, would on Tuesday April 8, persuade the court that the continuous detention of the baby’s mother without trial is illegal and unconstitutional as it is not in the best interest of the applicant as granted in section 1 of the Child’s Rights Act 2003.
The lawyer argues also that the detention of the applicant’s mother without trial which necessitated the birth of the baby in prison yard is a breach of the baby’s right to dignity as guaranteed by the constitution.
Onyekachi would want the court to make a declaration that his mother’s indefinite detention without trial violates his own rights to liberty, family life, good health and threat to life, survival and proper development as guranteed by the law.
The counsel posits that the failure to put this baby in a special center with his mother and with special treatment is illegal and denial of the baby’s right to an enabling environment.
The group suing for Baby Onyekachi is also seeking for an unconditional release of the baby’s mother on who the baby depends for existence. The prayers also include that damages be paid the baby for the injuries caused him while the FG tenders a public apology to him.
Journey to the prison
The founder of CRAPI, Mrs. Onyenweaku, told Saturday Sun that the group had visited the prison based on the information it got that there are underaged children in the prisons. “We had gone to visit these underaged children and see how to help expedite their prosecution. It was there I noticed a baby wrapped and kept at a corner in one of the beds. That was how we got attracted to his case.”
According to her, Onyekachi’s mother, Chinwe, was arrested since 2006 during a raid by the police and is awaiting trial for robbery. Unknown to the authorities, Chinwe was a month pregnant when she was taken in. Since her detention, she is yet to appear before any court for prosecution. She gave birth to Onyekachi in the prison.
“It lacked the facility, for proper development. In the prison environment, no provision is made for babies born in the prison. Onyekachi’s survival in prison is just by chance, he survives at the mercy of visitors. No particular provision is made for him.”
Free mother and child
The group is seeking that if if Onyekachi should be released, he should go along with his mother. “The mother is actually the life wire of the baby. We also want the mother out of the prison because constructively he has been detained because he cannot exist outside his life wire. He needs to be serviced by it (life wire, the mother) therefore he should go along with it.
“I am not saying that the law should not deal with offenders but another person’s right should not be tampered with. Offenders should be punished but the system should take the pound of flesh without spilling blood.
These terms and conditions contain rules about posting comments. By submitting a comment, you are declaring that you agree with these rules:
Failure to comply with these rules may result in being banned from further commenting.
These terms and conditions are subject to change at any time and without notice.