Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Free Patrick Okoroafor Right Now!

I was in the Nigerian High Commission in London yesterday on a short business only to come out and see litany of placards with the number 14 on them flying here and there and yonder in front of the High Commission. On inquiry I was told that the Amnesty International UK, are protesting the continued detention of Patrick Okoroafor in Aba Prison in Abia State of Nigeria. I was given some pamphlets and after reading them, I cannot stop crying that my own country, 'The People and Federal Republic of Nigeria' could have the gut to incarcerate a child of 14 and still have the effrontery to keep him there up till today at the 'Pleasure of the Governor'.

My expression was that of a rude shock, utter disappointment and a complete shame that such impunity could be allowed to take place in such an advanced country by the third world standard. I am yet to recover from the shock and I can imagine what this young man is going through. I cannot stop shouting and asking why on earth the type of sanctions placed on Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe should not be lifted and placed upon Nigeria till Patrick Okoroafor is released and compensated not only with money but also with full scholarship by the Nigeria Government towards a University education abroad.

This is a big shame and I am ashamed of being called a Nigerian. Where are those giving sanctions? Nigeria needs many of them now! That young man should be taken out of the prison right now because he does not belong there. That should not stop there! In actual fact the Federal Government should as a matter of urgency set up a panel of inquiry to find out those responsible for this type of impunity. I strongly suggest that legal experts involved in this nasty case should be debarred for ridiculing and tarnishing the image of the Nigerian Bar Association.

No matter what Patrick Okoroafor did, he was a child and should not be in the prison. This is a gross and blatant violation of the 1989 United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child of which Nigeria is a signatory and also the Child Right’s Act domesticated in Nigeria in 2003. It is a shame that Patrick never had the privilege to enjoy childhood and adulthood like the rest of us. Nigeria seriously violated this Convention.

Back in days as a journalist with the Guardian Newspapers of Nigeria, I had a rare privilege to visit the Medium Security Prison in Kuje Abuja with the then Minister for the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el Rufai and what I saw there, am not able to put down here. The prison in particular and the Nigeria Prison system in general is a shame and in a big shamble. A room normally meant for at most two inmates are occupied by more than 50 people. They sleep standing upright and defecate on the floor.

There are wide cases of brutality, rape, diseases and death and yet government has not deemed it fit to undertake a reform of the nation’s penal system. Corruption amongst the prison warders is also monumental and capable of making decent people vomit till thy kingdom come. The Nigeria prison system is simply not fit for a purpose and Patrick Okoroafor should simply not be there. And the fact that Patrick was thrown into this messy system at a tender age of 14 should be a reason the international community should join to pressure Nigeria to release and compensate him or face sanctions. This is exactly a situation where we want the international community to act on.

This is no time for silence and neutrality. We cannot condone neutrality and silence when people are suffering. I am conscious of the fact that neutrality does not pay and being aware that it does not pay, we cannot continue to keep silent or remain neutral when people are going through a very difficult time or humiliation because it may be our turn tomorrow. Neutrality empowers the oppressor and never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor and never the tormented. I believe we have to take part in a controversy no matter whose Ox is gored especially when it borders on human life, human right and human dignity by speaking out against it.

When human lives are endangered and human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sovereignty should come last. Wherever people are being persecuted, imprisoned, humiliated or become a subject of opprobrium as a result of their race, religion, ethnicity, political views or sexual orientation or even false accusation or miscarriage of justice in the case of Patrick, that place should be the focus of the entire world until that cynical and barbaric behaviour is brought to an end.

I therefore urge and address personally the Government and people of the Imo and Abia States of Nigeria to grant the immediate and unconditional release of Patrick Okoroafor from Aba prison. We do not want to know what happened. What we are interested in is the fact that he was incarcerated at a very tender age, a clear violation of the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which Nigeria is a signatory.

Patrick Okoroafor has been in detention since 1995 and denied the right to a fair trial. Arrested at the age of fourteen on phantom charges of robbery, a crime he has always said he never committed, Patrick was sentenced to death on 30 May 1997, at the age of sixteen, by a Robbery and Firearms Tribunal. Patrick did not have the full right to appeal, contrary to international law. In 2001, the High Court of Imo state declared Patrick’s sentence by the Robbery and Firearms Tribunal to be “illegal, null and void” and changed his sentence to detention 'at the pleasure of the governor'.

This amounted to indefinite and arbitrary detention, and as such, a violation of international human rights standards. Patrick however was recently given a definite sentence of ten years. Nevertheless, I believe Patrick should be released immediately. He was fourteen when he went to prison after an unfair trial and he has now spent fourteen years of his life there. 14 years should be enough!

The condition of his long detention has had serious consequences for Patrick's health. He suffers from acute asthma attacks described by prison authorities as "frequent and life-threatening". I appeal again to the people and government of Imo State of Nigeria to demonstrate their commitment to justice, transparency, accountability, rule of law and respect for human rights in by granting the immediate and unconditional release of Patrick Okoroafor.

3 comments:

  1. 'The People and Federal Republic of Nigeria' could have the gut to incarcerate a child of 14 and still have the effrontry to still keep him there up tilll today at the 'Pleasure of the Governor'. Oh my God, how I wish the type of sanctions placed on Iran, North Korea and Zimbabewa should be lifted and placed upon Nigeria till Patrick Okoroafor is released and compensated not only with money but also with full scholarship by the Nigeria Government towards a University education abroad. This is a big shame. I am ashamed of being called a Nigerian. Where are those giving sanctions? Nigeria need many of them now!!!

    Chukwunwikezarramu Okumephuna wrote
    at 11:49am on June 17th, 2009
    No matter what Patrick Okoroafor did, he was a child and should not be in a prison. This is a gross and blatant violation of the 1989 United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child of which Nigeria is a signatory. It is a shame that Patrick never had the privileged to enjoy childhood and adulthood like the rest of us. Nigeria seriously violated this Convention.
    whereas many millionaires in Nigeria commit crime every day.am ashamed of my country
    Dr.james Ibeh

    ReplyDelete
  2. if i am to say Patrick Obinna Okoroafor should be freed right away because
    1) he is innocent of the said cime which was master minded by top politicians in Nigeria which i will not mention their name now but i my next write up I will.
    2) he was under aged when the said crime was committed and he has suffered in jail even much more than "Nelson Mandella of south Africa .
    3) why should a young man spend his Teenage yrs in jail, aduloscent age and final we all know that life can not start at 30yrs
    4) where will this young man start: if I were to say Nigerian government should not only release him but also compensate him for wasting his life in prison ;because who know ,this young man may have had to opportunity to become a future president if not jailed up to this moment .
    5) his long term detaintion has also caused more harm to his entire family because he the baby of the house that Mum loved so much.
    Finally all hands must be on desk to ensure the quick realise of Mr.Patrick Obinna okoroafor

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  3. what are the Nigerian government still waiting for to free"Patrick Okoroafor "well I believe that the have to because this younger man is asmatic and should not be allowed to die first before the take the coups home ;God forbid .Nigeria government must free this young man with compensation of atleast 4million naira or more to enable him start a new life because they allowed him to suffer and spend his youthful age behind the bar.
    Nelson Mandela of South Africa was a vctim and when he came out became the President of South Africa .
    So we Nigerian should have a rethink and do something about granting this young man freedom with compensation to him and his entire family.
    Thanks and remain
    Blessed

    ReplyDelete