No fewer than 500 Nigerians are languishing in various prisons in Togo as the Global Society for Anti-Corruption (GSAC), urges the Federal Government to intervene.
“We discovered that many of them got into businesses like network marketing and didn’t know they were banned in that country. Some of them are genuine businessmen and women. None was discovered to have committed any capital offence in a report published by guardian.ng
The group, which commended the newly-posted Nigerian Ambassador to Togo, Adebowale Adesina, for the interest he had shown on the plight of the prisoners, promised to co-operate with him to enable him succeed in his new assignment.
GSAC’s President, Mr. Frankline Ezeona, while briefing reporters in Enugu, following a fact-finding visit the group made to Togolese prisons, stated that a good number of the prisoners had spent between nine to 10 years awaiting trial.
He said that the prisoners’ situation had been compounded by the fact that they no longer have access to certain relief materials due to the ravaging COVID-19 disease.
Ezeona stated that most of those concerned were sent to prison out of ignorance, adding that many others were victims of cybercrime.
“So, we think that the Nigerian government should intervene in the matter. Let some of them be released or extradited to face their prison terms in Nigeria.
“We are asking the Nigerian government to see how some of them can be released and granted amnesty based on stipulated law – on age, pregnancy, health and what have you,” he said.
Besides, the group’s legal team, led by Chidinma Evangeline Udegbunam, stated that they intervened following several distress messages the organisation received from Nigerian prisoners in Togo.
She said that of the 13 prisons in Togo, the one in Lome alone houses 300 Nigerian prisoners, adding that their situation was pitiable as they were lumped in already congested facilities.
“There are those that have spent nine years in prison for misdemeanour. We wanted to look at their files but were not allowed to do so. The legal system operation in Togo is different from that of Nigeria. There, when one is accused of crime, he is being taken as guilty until proven otherwise. Anyone arrested is treated as convict. It is the system of Togo and its citizens know it is working for them. The administrative system is centralised,” she said.
Narrating the ordeal of one Jerry Odiesa, a Nigerian from Delta State, whom she said had served 11 of his 20 years conviction over cyber-related crime, Udegbunam said that what took Odiesa to prison was ignorance.