Lawyer blames Hamani Tidjani’s death on Lagos government’s negligence

Tidjani, a notorious cross border car thief, died in prison on Sunday

The lawyer representing the convicted cross-border robbery kingpin, Hamani Tidjani, who died in prison custody on Sunday, has attributed his client’s death to the negligence of the Lagos State government.

Jamilu Bashir told PREMIUM TIMES on Monday that the death of Mr. Tidjani, 52, would have been avoided if the Lagos State government had done what it was supposed to do.

“It is quite unfortunate. The issue of his death would have been avoided. Because for somebody that is a millionaire, he has a lot of money to treat himself even beyond Nigeria. The man had been sick down there for over six months. It would have been avoided if really the government lived up to what was expected of them,” Mr. Bashir said.

A lax Lagos government

Mr. Tidjani was arrested in September 2003, at the peak of a series of trans-border car robbery between Nigeria and Benin Republic that forced the then President Olusegun Obasanjo-led federal government to seal off the Nigerian border.

After his arrest, which was so celebrated that the then Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun, announced at a press conference that trans-border crime at the Nigeria-Benin Republic axis had reduced, both Lagos and Ogun states filed criminal charges against Mr. Tidjani.

In June 2011, an Ijebu-Ode High Court convicted Mr. Tidjani and sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment but a High Court of Ogun State discharged and struck out the charges against him for “lack of diligent prosecution.” Meanwhile, the suit instituted by the Lagos State government before Sybil Nwala of a Lagos High Court on a three-count charge of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, armed robbery, and receiving stolen goods moved at a snail speed.

“Lagos State did not do what was expected of them,” Mr. Bashir said.”The last time their witness was in court was in 2007. Since 2008, nobody appeared. The man was just abandoned there.”

According to Mr. Bashir, in June, 2013, a medical report had stated that the prison environment was not conducive for Mr. Tidjani and advised that the prisoner be moved to where he would have access to better medical facilities.

“I alerted the court immediately and filed an application for him to go for treatment but the Office of the Attorney General (of Lagos State) filed a counter affidavit. By that time there was already vacation, so the matter was adjourned,” Mr. Bashir said.”We now informed the Office of the Attorney General that this man’s condition was getting worse. But instead of them to send their medical team to go there and find out that time, they refused to do that.”

Eventually, the Lagos State medical team visited Mr. Tidjani in late December to assess his ailment. They never returned.

Mr. Tidjani died of partial stroke on Sunday morning, prison sources said. As at Monday afternoon, his corpse was waiting to undergo autopsy at the General Hospital, Isolo, according to his lawyer.

Mr. Bashir said that the Lagos State government, the Obasanjo administration, and the country’s poor judicial system contributed to his client’s death.

“We would consult with the family and see what we can do… Ordinarily, they (Lagos State government) would have taken him to LUTH where they would have given him adequate treatment, but they did not. The man was in prison throughout. The only thing they (prison authorities) did for him when he had partial stroke was to take him to the naval hospital for physiotherapy, no other thing,” said Mr. Bashir.

Efforts to speak with the Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Aderemi Ibirogba, were not successful. Phone calls to his mobile number did not go through.

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