Posted by By OLA AGBAJE on
The maximum penalty for his alleged offence, stealing, is two years imprisonment but he ended up spending six years in prison awaiting trial.
The maximum penalty for his alleged offence, stealing, is two years imprisonment but he ended up spending six years in prison awaiting trial. However, freedom came the way of Godwin Akpan recently when Ben Okeke from Zarephath Aid (a free legal aids organisation) took up his case and discovered that he was a victim of wicked and dubious manipulation in the criminal justice system.
In fact, Okeke discovered to his dismay that the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), the agency responsible for the recommendation of those to be prosecuted after careful analysis of police investigation’s report, had indeed absolved Akpan of any complicity in the January 8, 1998 robbery incident, which led to his arrest and ultimate detention lasting six years.
Part of the report dated June 15, 1999 stated inter-alia, “There is no shred of evidence in the case file to link the suspects, Godwin Akpan, Friday Joseph and Owen Ibanga to the robbery of 8th January, 1998. These suspects were neither caught at the scene of crime nor were they identified by the victims of the robbery.”
Curious as this may sound, in a crooked twist to the matter, this vital document was kept away from Akpan and his two colleagues by the Police and so they languished in jail for six years.
According to Okeke: “Akpan’s name along with those of his two colleagues were on the list of those that we were investigating for the purpose of filing appropriate application in court on their behalf in order to facilitate their freedom.
“But surprisingly, during our search, we stumbled on the DPP’s advice in respect of Akpan, Friday and Ibanga. The advice clearly exonerated them from complicity in the armed robbery incident, which the police hanged on their neck.
“By the contents of the report dated June 15, 1999, they should not be in prison for so long. Though the report recommended that Akpan should be tried for stealing of household items, he could not be sentenced to more than two years, but he spent six years before our intervention.
“It would interest you to know that the police had to rush them to court practically on our heels when they were confronted with the DPP’s advice of 1999 and its implication on the unjust imprisonment of Akpan and his two colleagues.
“They ensured that both Akpan and Ibanga were set free but unfortunately, rather sadly, Friday died in the prison,” he said.
According to Akpan, he was a houseboy somewhere in Ifako Ijaiye area when the late Friday falsely implicated him several months after a robbery incident occurred in their residence.
He said, “Friday had not been engaged as a security man in our house when the robbery incident happened. I even recommended him to madam when he told me he needed a job. But unfortunately, he was the one devil used to put us in trouble.
“One day, he just went to madam and told her that I took part in the robbery incident. And that was how madam called police to arrest me. I was taken to ‘Area G’ in Ogba before I was later transferred to SARS. When I was tortured to the point of imminent death, I quickly told them that I stole some cups and plates so that they will not kill me. I further told them that I kept them with my brother, Owen. They arrested him and brought him to SARS. But I swear I didn’t steal anything but the torture was just too much to bear.
“Later, Friday began having an attack of conscience and he went back to madam to confess that he lied against me. Madam was too angry with him that she got him arrested and he was brought to join us in SARS. We were all taken to court once before we were eventually dumped unceremoniously in prison,” he said.
According to Akpan, he deeply regretted that Friday died in custody disclosing that “he took ill and there was no medical care to save his life. We had forgiven ourselves while in custody. So, there is no reason to be bitter.”
Continuing, he said, “I thank God for sending Mr. Okeke to fight for our freedom. People are dying daily in that place (prison). There are so many inmates suffering from terrible ailments such as tuberculosis, skin and other dangerous diseases. So, coming out of the place alive is like returning from hell. Everyday’s life in Kirikiri is a continuous nightmare.”
On his immediate plan, Akpan said he needs a decent roof over his head and wishes to learn a trade to be able to fend for himself.
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