Inmates we represented not linked to negotiations on train passengers

The Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON) says the 101 detainees released from the Kirikiri medium and maximum correctional facilities in Lagos on October 7 were not swapped with the Kaduna train passengers.

There had been recent speculations that the inmates were freed following negotiations for the release of some of the passengers abducted during an attack on a train in Kaduna in March.

The federal government had recently announced the release of the 23 remaining passengers who were in captivity.

Speaking on the detainees, Abdulfattah Bakre, LACON’s FCT director, said the council gave free legal representation to the inmates and that it was only a coincidence that they were released two days after the train passengers secured their freedom.

“The detainees were not swapped with the 23 remaining Abuja-Kaduna train passengers released on October 5. These two incidents are mere coincidences,” he said.

“The process that led to the release of these detainees started in February before the train passengers were kidnapped.

“The council received a certified document from Bauchi relating to some of the inmates on April 14, and a fundamental human rights enforcement application on behalf of the inmates was filed on May 18.

“Nigerians should disregard the newspaper publication by a Non-Government Organisation (NGO). The NGO filed an enforcement application for the detainees, praying for their release after years of incarceration without prosecution.

“The court, however, struck out the suit on technical grounds and held that the suit ought to have been filed separately and not together as done by the counsel.

“The council, therefore, as part of its mandate to provide legal representation for indigent Nigerians, decided to take up the case on pro bono.”

Bakre said the detainees were arrested in June, July and August 2009 in Bauchi, Kano and Maiduguri, and arraigned on various charges bordering on possession of firearms, belonging to unlawful society, and arson.

”Before we took up their matter, we  got approval of the comptroller-general of the Nigerian Correctional Service, to be granted access to the detainees,” he said.

”We interviewed them one on one and took down their statements and some of them said they were arrested on their farms, while in transit, and on the streets with their friends.

“Out of the 101 inmates released, less than 10 of them agreed to have been Boko Haram members, as majority denied ever belonging to the group.

”It was after this that the council wrote to the attorney-general of the federation (AGF), minister of justice, and filed the applications on behalf of the detainees as applicants, and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and AGF as respondents, respectively.”

This story is published in partnership with Report for the World, a global service program that supports local public interest journalism.

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