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Ahmad Umar

05.07.2023 Featured Court Acquits Teenager Abandoned in Prison for 8 Months

Published 5th Jul, 2023

By Abimbola Abatta

Ahmad Umar (not real name), a 19-year-old apprentice, is free again after eight months behind bars.

According to a Twitter post on Tuesday by Hope Behind Bars Africa, a criminal justice reforms initiative, Umar was arrested in Edo State on suspicion of theft in November 2022.

Ahmad Umar

FIJ learned that Umar, an indigene of Nasarawa State working in Benin as of 2022, was accused by his boss of stealing nine iron-steel worth N2.7 million.

“Despite being granted bail, he could not perfect the bail conditions due to lack of money,” said Hope Behind Bars.

READ ALSO: 23-Year-Old Wrongly Accused of Theft Spends 7 Months in Prison

FIJ spoke with Emmanuel Okorie, the initiative’s volunteer lawyer who took up Umar’s case and requested an expedited trial.

He said Hope Behind Bars took up the matter between April and May when they found that Umar had no lawyer working on his case. And in June, the teenager regained freedom.

According to the lawyer, the court had granted Umar a bail of N500,000 with one surety in like sum. However, he could not afford the bail, hence his long stay in prison.

“We were in court for a different matter at the time, and he pleaded with us to take up the matter. We took it up that day and applied to the court to recall the witness, that is the complainant. And the court agreed with us,” Okorie told FIJ.

“On the next adjourned date, the prosecutor told us that the witness was no longer interested in prosecuting the matter, that he did not intend to come back to the court.”

The lawyer subsequently made the necessary applications, asking the court to discharge and acquit Umar for want of prosecution.

READ ALSO: Innocent Lagos Resident Spends 2 Years in Prison for ‘Assault Occasioning Harm’

“In our laws, when evidence has been given, a court can discharge, and when there is no evidence at all, a court can strike out a matter. But in Umar’s case, the court could not strike it out again because evidence had already been adduced. It could only discharge,” the lawyer said.

“And he was discharged and acquitted. He travelled back to Nasarawa State the following day.

“When Umar’s brother and his people came to receive him after his discharge, I asked them why they abandoned him in prison, and they said they were scared.

“According to them, the police had intimidated them at the time, so they were afraid that they could be arrested too. He said that was why they did not even visit him when in prison. I also believe that was why one of the reasons Umar’s bail was not perfected.”

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Published 5th Jul, 2023

By Abimbola Abatta

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