A senior lawyer and human rights activist, Femi Falana, has written the interior ministry over the release of six Nigerian inmates pardoned in Thailand but still held in Kirikiri Maximum Prison, Lagos.
PREMIUM TIMES in February reported that eight inmates repatriated from Thailand to complete their prison terms at home are still being held in the facility, over a year beyond their release dates.
The inmates include Wasiu Amusan, Napoleon Mba, Obi Titus, Gloria Ogbonna, Henry Azukaeme, Okpala Chukwubike, Kennedy Tanya and Yakubu Yauza.
Documents obtained showed that not less than six of them, who were imprisoned for drug-related offences, were granted royal pardon and their sentences commuted by the Thai monarch, Maha Vajiralongkorn, to one-sixth of their original sentence.
They are thus supposed to have been released.
Their continued incarceration is allegedly due to the failure of consular officials at the Nigerian Embassy in Thailand to transmit their warrants of release.
Going by the controversial prisoner transfer treaty between Nigeria and the Kingdom of Thailand and the royal pardon by the Thai King, these individuals should have been released by 2019.
According to the treaty, though inmates are transferred to their home country to serve out their sentence, they are still under the “exclusive jurisdiction” of the transferring country.
Article 5 (1) of the treaty that deals with the retention of jurisdiction states that “the transferring state shall retain exclusive jurisdiction regarding the judgements of its court, the sentences imposed by them and any procedures for revision, modification and cancellation of those judgements and sentences.”
Having observed the breach of diplomatic relations, PREMIUM TIMES reached out to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, its spokesperson stated that the ministry has nothing to contribute on the matter, insisting that it is the responsibility of Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS).
When reached, the spokesperson of the NCS, Augustine Njoku, who confirmed that the inmates were indeed repatriated from Thailand, said they were not due for freedom.
Mr Falana, in a letter addressed to Rauf Aregbesola, the minister of Interior, demanded that six of the convicts be released immediately.
“We are solicitors to the above named convicted prison inmates who are currently held in custody at the Kirikiri Maximum Correctional Centre, Apapa, Lagos State on whose behalf we write this letter. Our clients were convicted in Thailand for drug related offences at various times between 1998 and 2006,”
He said in pursuant to the treaty, the six persons were granted general amnesty under The Royal Amnesty Decree in 2016 and 2019 but due to undisclosed reasons, the authorities of the Nigerian Correctional Services have refused to release his clients.
“Thus, due to unpardonable negligence of certain public officers, the Federal Government has been wasting public funds on maintaining our clients when they ought to have regained their freedom,” Mr Falana stated further.
Making a case for them, he said Henry Ejikeme, who was convicted and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in 2006, ought to have been released from prison custody on March 6, 2018.
Also, Gloria Ogbonna, who was convicted and sentenced to 33 years imprisonment in 2005 and had served 10 years of the prison term in Thailand and additional 12 years in Nigeria, ought to have been released from prison custody on February 19, 2019, the lawyer said.
“MR. OKPALA KINGSLEY CHIBUIKE (a.k.a OTENG SAMUEL) was convicted and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in 2007 for drug related offences. He served 8 years and 5 months in Thailand and additional 11 years in Nigeria. He was granted Royal Pardon pursuant to Thailand’s Royal Decree of Amnesty to Detainees and his sentence commuted to one Sath of the original sentence. He ought to have been released from prison custody since April 4, 2017. ”
“MR. YAKUBU YAHUZA MOHAMMED was convicted and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in 2006. He served 10 years of the al termin Thailand and an additional 11 years custodial term in Nigeria. He was granted royal pardon pursuant to Thailand’s Royal Decree of Amnesty to Detainees and his sentence commuted to one-sixth of the original sentence. He ought to have been released from prison custody on May 3, 2019,” the letter read.
Mr Falana added that Messrs Tanya and Smith ought to have been released from prison custody on May 14, 2012 and July 29, 2010, respectively.
“We respectfully urge you to use your good offices to terminate the unlawful detention of our clients forthwith and authorize their immediate release from the Kirikiri Maximum Correctional Center Lagos Copies of the Amnesty documents,” he told Mr Aregbesola in the letter to which he enclosed translated copies of the pardons granted the inmates.
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