From Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu
The Global Society for Anti-Corruption (GSAC) yesterday alerted that no fewer than 500 Nigerian citizens were languishing in various prisons in Togo.
Consequently, it has called on the federal government to intervene on behalf her citizens and ensure that they get justice.
GSAC’s President, Mr Frankline Ezeona who briefed newsmen in Enugu on a recent fact-finding visit his organisation made to Togolese prisons, disclosed that a good number of the Nigerians in the said Togo prisons had spent more than 10 years awaiting trial.
Ezeona who decried the inhuman treatment being meted to the Nigerians by officials of the Togolese prisons, stressed that their situation had been compounded by the fact that they no longer have access to certain relief materials due to the ravaging COVID-19.
Federal government intervention he said was needed because most of the Nigerians found themselves in prison out of ignorance, while others were victims of cyber crimes.
He said, “What we discovered is that many of them got into businesses like network marketing and didn’t know they were banned in that country. Some of them are genuine businessmen and women, who got into trouble with indigenous and what have you. None was discovered to have committed any capital offence. But they got them and threw them into the prison and for years, they don’t have dates in courts.
“So we think that the federal government should intervene in their matter. Let some of them be released or extradited to face their prison terms in Nigeria. We are asking the Nigerian government to see how some of them can be released and granted amnesty based on stipulated law – on age, pregnancy, health and what have you.
“For some released, we are asking that they be provided with relief materials or compensation because, it was discovered that, many of them are not guilty from the offences they were charged.”
He commended the newly posted Nigerian Ambassador to Togo, Adebowale Adesina for the interest he had shown on the plight of the Nigerians in Togolese prisons.
The GSAC’s legal team on the fact-finding tour led by Chidinma Udegbunam, disclosed that the organisation intervened following several distress messages it received from Nigerian prisoners in Togo.
According to her, of the 13 prisons in Togo, the one in Lome alone was housing 300 Nigerian prisoners, noting that their situation was pitiable as they were lumped in already congested facilities.
She said, “There are ones that have spent nine years in prison for misdemeanor. We wanted to look at their flies but were not allowed to do so. The legal system operation in Togo is different from that of Nigeria. There, when one is accused of crime, he is being taken as guilty until proven otherwise. Anyone arrested is treated as convict. It is there system and their people know it is working for them. The administrative system is centralized.”
Narrating the ordeal of one Jerry Odiesa, a Nigerian from Delta state, whom she said had served 11 of his 20 years conviction over cyber related crime, Udegbunam stated that what took him to prison was ignorance.
She further said, “We think the Togolese government should speedy up trial of these Nigerians and not allow one who is a suspect stay more years than they could have spent, because justice delayed is justice denied.