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Lagos man tortured, imprisoned for 11 years over neighbor’s crime freed

Mr Maxwell Dele, who had been imprisoned for over 11 years without trial, has been ordered to be released by a Lagos State High Court.

In a statement released on Monday, Avocats Sans Frontières France (Lawyers Without Borders France) stated that the practise of charging suspects with serious crimes in order to have them remanded in prison indefinitely with little or no effort to prosecute the case needed to end.

In a statement, Angela Uzoma-Iwuchukwu, the Country Director of ASF France in Nigeria, said that the Nigeria Correctional Service data on the summary of inmate population by convict and persons awaiting trial as of October 4, 2021, revealed that the facilities hold 37% more inmates than they were designed to, with pre-trial detainees accounting for over 70% of the prison population.

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According to the report, the average time spent in pre-trial detention in Nigeria was nearly four years.

According to ASF research, many detainees are held for much longer periods of time, as in the case of Dele, who was “arbitrarily detained for over 11 years, reflecting both an overburdened justice system and structural problems between Nigeria’s state and federal justice systems,” according to the report.

According to the organisation, in Dele’s case, officers from the Nigeria Police Force were on the lookout for a man named Mr James Idem, who they suspected of being involved in an armed robbery.

Unfortunately, Dele happened to be a shop owner and James’ next-door neighbour in Lagos’ Ikorodu market.

“During the search for Mr James, police officers asked Dele for information on Mr James’ whereabouts, and when Dele couldn’t provide those answers, he was arrested for armed robbery.”

Dele was arrested at the Sagamu Road Police Station and transferred to SARS Ikeja in Lagos, where he was hanged and tortured.

“Dele was also compelled to sign a previously written statement on October 16, 2011, the same day he was charged with armed robbery at Magistrate Court 17, Ikeja, Lagos. Dele remained in the Medium Security Custodial Centre in Kirikiri, Lagos, for the next 11 years, never appearing in court.

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“On behalf of the detainee, ASF France filed an application with the Lagos State High Court, requesting his unconditional or conditional release, citing instances of torture, violations of his fundamental human rights, rights to personal liberty, and freedom of movement, as provided under sections 35 and 41 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.” The application was granted by the Lagos State High Court,” according to the statement.

The ASF country director expressed regret for losing 11 years of one’s life to a “systemic irregularity,” adding that nothing could compensate for the loss.

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