Saula was held at the Kirikiri Correctional Centre in Lagos State for six years despite legal advice from the state’s Directorate of Public Prosecutions that he should be released five years earlier.
A bricklayer, Idris Saula, has explained how human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), secured his release after six years of his life were stolen by the country’s criminal justice system.
According to PUNCH, Saula was held at the Kirikiri Correctional Centre in Lagos State for six years despite legal advice from the state’s Directorate of Public Prosecutions that he should be released five years earlier.
The newspaper said the 36-year-old had in 2014 gone to work at a construction site in the Sangotedo, Ajah area of the state but was arrested during a raid by policemen from the Ajiwe Division.
The victim said he was subsequently taken to a magistrates’ court and arraigned for armed robbery after which he was remanded in prison.
It was gathered that the DPP released the legal advice absolving Saula of all charges.
However, the police prosecutor did not take the advice to court, allowing the bricklayer to languish in prison.
After the arraignment of the Lagos State indigene in 2014, he did not step into court again until his miraculous release on April 30, 2020.
While recounting his ordeal, Saula said his inability to pay N50,000 to the policemen at the Ajiwe Police Station for bail was behind his predicament.
He said, “I was called for a bricklaying job at Sangotedo. We were working when we heard a noise of some thugs fighting. Shortly afterwards, the police came and raided the area. I was among the seven construction workers they arrested.
“When we got to the police station, they demanded N50,000 for our bail. Others paid and they were released. My phone had been taken and I did not know the number of any family member off hand.
“After spending three days in the station, I was taken to the SARS office in Ikeja. I spent five months and two weeks there. They did not even bother to find out the whereabouts of my family or anybody.
“One day, they just brought me out of the cell and took me to the Ikeja Magistrates’ Court where I was arraigned alone for armed robbery. From the court, I was taken to Kirikiri Medium Prison. For days, I was depressed, because I was suffering for what I knew nothing about.”
He further said that in 2017, some inmates in the medium security prison were moved to the maximum security prison because the medium facility was congested.
He explained that luck however, smiled on him when an elderly man, who lived in Ikorodu, was brought to the prison for a minor offence.
The new inmate, after listening to his story, promised to connect Saula to a rights lawyer.
“He called Baba Femi Falana, who sent a lawyer to interview me. I was surprised on Thursday, April 30, 2020, when my name was called and I was told to go home,” he stated.
Asked if he was aware of the legal advice on his matter, Saula said nobody told him about it.
He explained that complaints to the prison officials that he had never been taken to court for trial were rebuffed.
“I always went to the prison’s record office to know when my case file would be called. They kept telling me to be patient that it was not my turn yet.
“When I became persistent, they chased me away with a cane. I just resigned to fate and kept praying and asking God to bring me out,” he added.
His mother, Olayemi Monsuru, told the PUNCH that he collapsed at the bus stop and was conveyed home in a tricycle.
Monsuru recalled that when the 36-year-old did not return home from work in 2014, she raised a search party to look for him.
The 69-year-old mother said nothing was heard until eight months later when some freed inmates said they sighted him in Kirikiri.
She said, “From that time, we kept visiting him in prison and later got a lawyer, whom we paid over N200,000. The man lived in the same community with us and we attended the same church.
“But after some time, he stopped taking our calls and we were informed that he was dead. Since that time, we had been helpless.
“We found a young lawyer, Folake, who asked us to pay N10,000 for her to visit him in prison. We paid the money.
“After the visit, she demanded N150,000 to continue to help. I am a widow and I sell fried fish by the roadside. We were still making efforts to raise the money when God intervened.”
Monsuru appealed for help for Saula, saying the family was heavily in debt.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Falana, while thanking the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), vowed to sue the Nigeria Police Force for Saula’s ordeal.
He said, “We wrote a letter to the Attorney-General to inform him about Saula’s unlawful detention. In the course of investigation, the DPP discovered that the legal advice written on the matter over five years ago was to the effect that he should be released from custody because there was no evidence that he was part of any armed robbery or other criminal gangs whatsoever.
“The legal advice was sent to the police but it was not forwarded to the magistrates’ court. Hence, a dysfunctional criminal legal system kept an innocent man in jail for six years.
“The legal advice was forwarded to the court and the magistrate ordered the production and release of the defendant. A court order was obtained and served on the Kirikiri Correctional Centre and he was released.
“We are going to sue the Nigeria Police Force. Of course, we are going to join the prosecutor whose negligence kept the man in unlawful detention for years.
“More importantly, we are going to challenge the dysfunctional criminal justice system that sentences indigent people to prolonged detention without trial.”