They are victims of the 2020 nationwide #EndSARS protests against police bitterness and brutality. Some of them truly participated in the protest; some were just onlookers while others had no idea of what the protest was all about. They’re all stuck at different prisons across the country.
Hopes of getting out of detention rose for many of them last week, but the industrial action of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) is now standing in the way of their freedom.
It is over one week since JUSUN embarked on the indefinite strike to demand its constitutionally-guaranteed financial autonomy that had been pronounced by a federal high court in 2014. The strike has therefore stopped the police and other law enforcement agencies from arraigning suspects in courts. This has prevented the dispensation of justice for awaiting-trial inmates, including those detained over last year’s #EndSARS protest.
JUVENILES IN JAILS
On October 24, two teenage girls and one 21-year-old boy were arrested and later remanded in prisons after they were charged with arson. They were accused of having connection with the arsonists who burnt down the All Progressives Congress (APC) secretariat in Akure, Ondo State.
While Kemisola Ogunbiyi, 17, was arrested and whisked to the State Criminal Investigation Department in Ondo while en route to getting drugs for her sick mother, Ibukun Ayodele, also 17, fell victim to soldiers in search of the APC secretariat arsonists during a visit to her boyfriend in Akure. The two teenagers have been in prison since October.
Meanwhile, Samuel Ojo was only an onlooker in the Ondo #EndSARS protests but is now languishing in jail for an offence eyewitnesses say “he knows nothing about”.
Following public outrage, non-governmental organisations and individuals moved to secure the bail of the trio, but the striking judicial workers have prevented the police and other law enforcement agencies from arraigning suspects in courts.
FIJ has gathered that Ibukun, who had lost her a three-month pregnancy in detention, has collapsed more than three times at the Surulere Prison but there is no adequate medical care for her.
The parents of Kemisola also said they lack the financial means to send food to their daughter in detention.
“We’ve not been hearing from her lately. Her father and I are very broke. Even to eat is very difficult for us,” her mother told FIJ. “We’ve not been able to send her food in prison.”
‘A LONG WAIT FOR JUSTICE’
Meanwhile, Nicholas Mbah, an up-and-coming artiste, is also languishing in Kikiri Prison, following his involvement in the Lagos leg of last year’s #EndSARS protests.
On October 29, 2020, he was arrested by officials of the Lagos States Task Force in the Ojo area of Lagos. He had gone to withdraw money from a bank when someone pointed at him that he was one of the #EndSARS protesters. His appearance in dreadlocks did not aid his cause any further.
Alongside one Ugwumba Chimieze, also accused of participating in the protest, Nicholas was charged with arson and armed robbery. Following the FIJ report, the duo were finally granted bail by a magistrate court sitting at Yaba, Lagos.
After meeting the bail conditions, Chimieze was released from detention but Nicholas was not granted his freedom as ordered by the court. It was gathered that the inability of the Registrar at the Magistrate Court to read the handwriting of P. E. Nwaka, the magistrate, had delayed the release of Nicholas.
“We’ll have to wait for the judiciary workers to end their strike,” Orji Ama Onu, his lawyer, told FIJ. “We can’t do anything for now.”
Since Nicholas was remanded in Kirikiri Prison in November 2020, he has fallen sick on several occasions but hasn’t been given proper medical attention. According to Orji, he has been battling some health complications since undergoing a surgery back in 2018.
“It’s sad that the judicial workers are on strike at this very time,” Orji added. “This is a long wait for justice.”
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