Chetachi Davidson, a Nigerian entrepreneur, has talked about her sister and her travails in the UAE.
He tells BLESSING AFOLABI how his younger sister, Sopuruchi, was jailed in the United Arab Emirates for negligence at work after a child in her care injured himself while she was in the restroom
Can you narrate what led to your sister’s imprisonment?
On September 15, 2022, I was in Ogun State when I got a call from my cousin that Sopuruchi’s ex-colleague, Joy, called to inform him that my sister was arrested. He told me that Sopuruchi’s supervisor, a Sudanese, who had in the past consistently frustrated her, called the police to arrest her because one of the children in her care injured himself in the ear while she was in the bathroom. I have no idea whether the person she instructed to watch over the kids for her didn’t do as told or how the sharp object got into the boy’s hand, though the classes had closed circuit television cameras, which they didn’t play before arresting her.
What is your suspicion?
The case looks like a cold-blooded setup but I don’t want to allege until it is proven. My sister’s supervisor had sent messages to her on WhatsApp several times threatening to frustrate her because she hates Nigerians. My sister has all the threat messages on her phone. Over there, whatever an elderly person says is believed to be the truth due to the Sharia law. This same supervisor sacked Joy, terminated her contract and ensured that she was deported.
How long did she use the restroom?
They said she spent 30 minutes in the bathroom. How on earth will one spend 30 minutes in the bathroom while on duty knowing how delicate her job is? Fine! She got out and tried to check the child before the police were called on her for immediate arrest. Her passport, phone and emirate identity card were seized and she was sentenced to a month in jail. We sent some people to go check on her at the station but to no avail. They asked every one of them for her passport or ID, meanwhile, they were the ones who seized it from her. The supervisor had given the order to prohibit anyone, who is not a staff member of the school, from entering the school’s premises; so, we couldn’t get anyone to access the school to make inquiries about the case.
She (Sopuruchi’s supervisor) is frustrating all the processes. In any sane clime, people are allowed into schools to make inquiries but the reverse is the case here (in the UAE school). The police refused to let any of my sister’s friends see her in person.
How long has your sister spent in prison?
On November 14 (2022), it dawned on me that it was already two months since my sister was arrested and she should have been released. Since there was no progress of any sort, I posted on Twitter tagging the Dubai police.
Did the police respond?
There was a reply that looked more like damage control. We sent a detective to check on her. He told us that she was in the female wing of the deportation cell and that it was a classified case and he couldn’t get access to her. I kept wondering how negligence at work became a classified case. It was then I had a bit of relief knowing that she is still alive, hale and hearty. Some of her high schoolmates who were in Dubai went to check on her in jail and discovered that she was fine though they didn’t get to see her in person. I tried to get a lawyer for her, but I was informed that the process would take six to eight months.
What is your family doing to ensure her release?
What we want is to put some money together and create awareness through the Chairperson of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, to pay for her (Sopuruchi) ticket and book her flight so that the UAE government can release her to us in Nigeria. According to what I heard, she will be deported without any of her belongings and will be required to write a statement once she gets to Nigeria. I don’t mind, let them just release my sister to us. She is a law-abiding citizen who travelled to Dubai legally and worked with an agency that gave her the job. She has her pieces of evidence. I just want the (Nigerian) government, through NIDCOM, to get to the UAE government to allow us to buy her return ticket to Nigeria.
What were your efforts to reach her?
The CID officer helping with the case went to the police on Monday November 21, 2022 to confirm if we could pay for her ticket back to Nigeria but to my utmost surprise, he was told that she was in the Al Ain jail and had been sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. Meaning she won’t be out of jail till May next year; the jail term was initially a month. I don’t know why it was extended to six months. We hope the media can help us. Her supervisor is lying that my sister had been warned on countless occasions and that she took the boy to the bathroom with her and bit his ear. The Nigerian security guard in the school has now been sacked probably in a bid to ensure that information about the case doesn’t leak. The members of staff have also been warned not to divulge any information. Sopuruchi is still in jail as of now, but we are keeping our fingers crossed.
Was there a trial?
Not at all. I gathered that she was accused of staying in the bathroom for 30 minutes, arrested, taken to the station and jailed for a month, which has been extended to six months without trial.
Did your family try to get her a lawyer?
We tried getting a lawyer but were told that they don’t recognise fundamental human rights over there. But if we decide to get one, it will take six months or even years before the issue can be resolved since the judicial system is a mess. Our best bet is to plead with the police to allow us to see her and buy her ticket to return to Nigeria.
Have you reached out to NIDCOM?
I posted a tweet to NIDCOM but someone advised me to send an official email. I sent a direct message to Dabiri-Erewa, but there’s been no response yet. I’m hoping that I can get through to the commission.
You said the Dubai police responded to your tweet in a way that seemed like damage control. What was the outcome?
The Dubai police only gave me the contact of the human resource office of the school. We reached out and were told that they only engaged in recruitment. Though we were able to contact the police through HR, they tried in the little way they could but couldn’t do much because the case can be handled only by the police headquarters in Dubai since Al Ain doesn’t have one. We have sent several emails to the school but there has been no response.
You also mentioned earlier that her supervisor sent threatening messages to her. Did your sister report the issue at any time?
No, she didn’t. The issue started with a boy, one of the children under her care, who liked my sister a lot. He usually got jealous whenever she cared for other kids. At one point, the boy beat other children because he was jealous. My sister tried to caution him, but he didn’t listen. Over there, you don’t beat kids; the only punishment meted out is to tell them to raise their hands and face the wall. She could do little about it. Her supervisor came into the scene and accused her of negligence. Sopuruchi asked her to play the CCTV footage. They played it but only to the point where the boy started beating other kids. Her supervisor punished Sopuruchi by giving her a query and slashing her salary despite pleading innocent.
Did your sister discuss this with you?
She told me about it and I advised her to use her phone to record when it happens next. The next time it happened, she recorded it. As usual, her supervisor stormed in and tried to accuse her like the previous time. She then brought out evidence that silenced them. They didn’t apologise or refund the money that was deducted. Sopuruchi kept complaining that her supervisor was bent on frustrating her efforts. This is the reason I strongly feel that it was a setup, but I hope the truth comes to light. It’s painful that they didn’t investigate the case before arresting her. I had a chat through one of the school’s official lines and pleaded for some information about my sister’s case, but they refused. The staff member I got to chat with told me to stop messaging him and that he didn’t have any information about the case. I’m pretty sure she (the supervisor) has given them an order to frustrate the process. I could only speak to my sister’s colleagues who were sacked and are back in Nigeria.
Have you heard from your sister since then?
No, I haven’t heard from her. No calls, no messages. The UAE authorities didn’t let her talk to anyone except for her friend whom she sent a voice note to immediately after she was arrested. She had to send a voice note in Yoruba informing him that she had been arrested. It was the guy, Mr Kolawole, who sent her visa and passport to me as a photo. Her passport, emirate ID and phone were seized after the arrest. None of us (family members) has heard from her in two months. They didn’t allow her to reach out to any of her family members or friends and vice versa. I’m waiting to hear from her.
How is your family taking the whole episode?
We are doing our best to stay strong, but I don’t know how long we can do that. My mum is suffering from hypertension and I have been trying to shield her from the news. She has been asking lots of questions, especially about my sister not calling her or sending her monthly upkeep. I had to put her phone in flight mode because I don’t want any information to reach my mum due to her health condition. We’ve been keeping an eye on my mum and also ensuring that she is well taken care of. All I yearn for is for my mum to get the good news that my sister is on her way to Nigeria. My dad is trying his best to stay strong though he is devastated. It’s quite painful that my dad and I spent a lot to send Sopuruchi to Dubai and we have to face this pain.
Source: The PUNCH
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