How I spent 24 years in prison for following friend to police station — Lukman Adeyemi - Reportgist

How I spent 24 years in prison for following friend to police station — Lukman Adeyemi

Reportgist
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In a harrowing account of injustice within the Nigerian criminal justice system, Lukman Adeyemi recounts his 24-year ordeal behind bars, a consequence of a misguided act of loyalty towards a friend. His narrative sheds light on the flaws and injustices prevalent within the system, leading to prolonged and unjust incarceration.>>>CONTINUE FULL READING HERE

Adeyemi describes his initial encounter with the system as a descent into hopelessness, spending nine years in pre-trial detention, followed by an agonizing 15 years on death row. The conditions he faced were nothing short of torture, reminiscent of a dark and endless nightmare. Recalling moments of interrogation by SARS Police officers, he vividly portrays the physical and psychological torment endured as he was coerced into admitting to crimes he had no knowledge of, under duress and threat.00 / 1:07

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Reflecting on his incredulity at being held accountable for another’s transgressions, he questions the system’s integrity and fairness. Despite being an innocent bystander caught in the web of injustice, he found himself entangled in a legal quagmire that seemed insurmountable. His decision to accompany his friend to the police station, out of a sense of loyalty and duty, inadvertently led to his own wrongful arrest and subsequent incarceration.

Throughout his years of imprisonment, he faced skepticism and disbelief when attempting to share his truth with others. The prevailing sentiment of doubt and suspicion only added to his misery, as he grappled with the weight of false accusations and a lack of justice.

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However, a glimmer of hope emerged when he crossed paths with the Centre for Justice Mercy and Reconciliation (CJMR) and his team, who offered support and advocacy on his behalf.

The intervention of the Organization, headed by Pastor Hezekiah Olujobi, brought a renewed sense of optimism and possibility, signaling a potential breakthrough in his quest for freedom.

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“I am Lukman Adeyemi, a native of Iwerele, Iwajowa Local Government, Oyo State. I am a Bricklayer by profession. I was 26 years old when I had this problem. In August 2000, after returning home from work with a friend living with me, Ismaila Lasisi, we were told that the Police came to look for Ismaila and he was asked to report himself in the station.

“I immediately decided to follow him to the station, lo and behold I was arrested and detained along with him. I was tortured to the point of death over a crime I knew nothing about, right from the police station. I had a close shave with the death over a murder of a woman who was hired by some ex-friends of Ismaila Lasisi to fetch water for them at the construction site. The woman left home in the morning and she never returned home.

“Ismaila Lasisi once lived with them. He begged to come and live with me after he had a misunderstanding with these people in March. I knew these people from a far distance. Our paths never crossed in life for anything. This was how I was charged to court along with these people over an offence I never had any knowledge of. In 2009 we were sentenced to death. We filed separate appeals but the appeal failed to the Supreme Court.

“My story of innocence to whoever cared to listen fell on deaf ears, with many questioning, ‘If you’re not one of them, why mention your name?’ ‘If truly you are innocent why can’t court free you?’

“I felt abandoned by truth itself. I spent 24 years behind bars like 24 hours, a sleepless night that lasted for two decades.

“In June 2023 one of the officers of the Correctional Service, Deputy Superintendent of Correctional (DSC) AbdulKareem Awesu introduced my case to a Pastor and I spoke with him on phone. “
Centre for Justice Mercy and Reconciliation steps in

“On 17th July 2023, a group Centre for Justice Mercy and Reconciliation, CJMR, led by Pastor Hezekiah Olujobi visited us at the Ibara Correctional Service where they listened to all of us including the culprits who exonerated us. The organization went with all our judgment and shed light on our innocence. June 14, 2024 shall remain evergreen and memorable day in my life. Light shone upon me, rain fell on my head for the first time and I saw the moon for the first time.

“I never knew I could pay for the sin of another man. How could I have committed an offense and still boldly walk into a police station to report myself?

“I am grateful that the organization Centre for Justice Mercy and Reconciliation intervened on my behalf, a beacon of hope in a sea of despair. Her belief in my innocence reignited the flame of justice within me, propelling me toward the possibility of redemption.”
Pastor Hezekiah Deboboye Olujobi

Pastor Hezekiah Deboboye Olujobi the Executive Director of Centre for Justice Mercy and Reconciliation, CJMR, an NGO based in Ibadan shed light on the innocence of Lukman Adeyemi and Ismaila Lasisi.

His words: “Our attention was drawn to the complaints of these two people on their claim of innocence by the Welfare Officer DCP Awesu, who invited us to come and help these people assuring us of their innocence and the effort made through the legal process without justice.

“We came down to Ibara Custodial Centre, Abeokuta, to hear from them. The two perpetrators confided in us that truly, they were the ones who committed the crime and that the two people were totally innocent of the crime. We adjusted our seats to hear them very well.

“It was a long drilling of questions on their parts. But yet they insisted on their innocence. What they said carried no weight in my ears until I read through the judgement that convicted them. We obtained their judgements from both the trial court and the Supreme Court for our review. We noticed the presentation of the state before the appellate court could never allow the court to shift ground.

“Lukman Adeyemi and his friend filed a separate appeal to the Court of Appeal, to the Supreme Court. We realized that none of the lawyers explored the way of arresting each person in this case. This is what the lawyer at the trial court should have done but very unfortunately he couldn’t. Failure of the perpetrators to declear them innocent of the crime could not have helped them at that time. The course of probing the way of arrest of the individuals in the case unfolded the truth on this matter.
Evidence

“In the record of proceedings, we stumbled on the evidence of the PW1. The police officer in charge of the case gave evidence before the Court that the first defender was referred to him from Ilaro police divisional office to Abeokuta with one Esther Shitu. Then he jumped to how he arrested them and how the defender led him to Shaki in his father’s house, and how the head of the deceased was recovered under his bed in his room at his father’s house.

“While reading through their separate judgments, it was a contradiction. They said they took the head of the deceased to the house of the herbalist at Sepeteri. Then I asked the first defender who was the lady that was arrested along with you from Ilaro to Abeokuta? He told us that was the lady he sent to go and call the deceased from the house of her husband in the morning.

“He said: ‘It was the lady the police first arrested. It was her arrest that led to the arrest of my elder brother; it was my elder brother who orchestrated my arrest’.

“The second question: where did you take the head of the deceased to? He said: ‘we took it to the herbalist at Sepeteri who promised to make ritual money for them’. Where is the herbalist and the lady? ‘They have been released at the station’.

“With all the analysis and the evidence in the record, we forwarded our findings to the office of the Attorney-General of Ogun State and the Committee for the Board of Prerogative of Mercy and they considered our appeal. Is not about their story, it is about the fact that the record corroborated their story.”
… points out the poor lawyering, police misinformation

Pastor Hezekiah Olujobi, the Executive Director of the Centre for Justice Mercy and Reconciliation, identifies poor lawyering, misleading information from the police, and the prosecutors’ relentless pursuit of convictions as key factors contributing to wrongful convictions in Nigeria such as Lukman Adeyemi.

While police evidence is typically held in high regard within the justice system, not all evidence presented in court is accurate or reliable, with some officers providing false information or making errors.

Recognizing that judges are fallible, the appellate process exists to rectify potential errors from lower courts. However, if justice remains elusive after exhausting legal avenues, the Centre for Justice Mercy and Reconciliation steps in to review court evidence and present cases to the Board of Mercy for consideration.

This approach embodies the essence of Restorative Justice.
Centre for Justice Mercy and Reconciliation records

The organization has successfully facilitated the release of over 20 individuals wrongfully convicted and secured the freedom of more than 600 individuals unlawfully detained in South West Nigeria Custodial Service.

Additionally, they have reintegrated over 300 individuals back into society. Currently, they have 12 inmates on death row and 10 awaiting trial cases under review for intervention. For those awaiting trial, they collaborate with pro bono lawyers to represent them in various high courts in Ogun, Oyo, and Osun States, providing support for transportation and motivation to ensure their presence in court.

In cases where individuals have been detained for extended periods without legal advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the organization advocates their rights by demanding updates on their case files from the Ministry of Justice. If no case file is found, they escalate the matter to the office of the Chief Judge for resolution.

The support received from the Ogun State Chief Judge, Honorable Justice Mosunmola Dipeolu FICMC, FHNR, the Ogun State Ministry of Justice, and the former Chief Judge of Oyo State, Honorable Justice Munktar Abimbola (Rtd), has been instrumental in advancing these initiatives.

Their impactful activities span across Oyo, Ogun, and Osun States, demonstrating their commitment to addressing injustice wherever it may occur.

With the efforts of the Nigeria Correctional Service, the Committee for Board of Mercy, Ogun and Governor Dapo Abiodun, Lukman Adeyemi and Ismaila Lasisi’s innocence was finally recognized. The real perpetrators confessed, leading to their release.

They express gratitude to all who played a role in their eventual freedom, acknowledging the challenges faced and lives lost during his wrongful imprisonment.

Currently, Lukman Adeyemi and Ismaila Lasisi are at the CJMR Halfway Home for recovery and reintegration process.>>>CONTINUE FULL READING HERE

(Vanguard)

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