“They parked us like sardines, 84 people in one cell. We lay sideways, with our arms pressed to the floor, so that there would be space for the next person to squeeze in”.

“Prison taught me a lot for the 3 months that I was there in 2014".

Oliver Duke has walked that road before, he says he has been a victim of circumstance in the hands of the Nigerian police and the judiciary system.

The OAP, comedian and actor might have so much versatility, but did not get any recognition until he hung out with 83 other men in one night.

He saw the ‘hard face’ of the Nigerian legal system in 2014, when he was arrested in July by policemen.

“I woke up one morning and while preparing to attend a wedding where I was the MC, police officers bust into my friend's house and accused me of being a fraudster and of stealing someone’s 350 million Naira” he lamented.

"They slapped me around and handcuffed me. I was confused, I did not know what they talking about.

After spending 5 days in the ‘popular’ PANTI he was released and requested to report to the police station every day, while they were still investigating the case, which he did.

“One day in August, on one of the days I was not meant to report to the Police station, I was ordered to come.

"When I got there, I was immediately handcuffed and taken to court, where I pleaded not guilty and remanded in Ikoyi prisons, without seeing my  lawyer throughout all this" Duke said as tears looked like they were beginning to well up in his eyes.

nigerian prisons

“I later found out that it was someone else who had been staying in my friend's house that was given a cheque for that amount, had evaded the police and the man who gave him the money and disappeared.

"The owner of the money must have put pressure on the police, which led to my latest arrest and subsequent incarceration in Ikoyi prison, where the bail conditions were high” he added.

For the next 90 days, Duke was a ‘guest’ at the Ikoyi prisons. He said that the food in prison is terrible and some lawyers take advantage of people’s ignorance.

"In prison the food is horrible. They give you condemned garri, with a soup that looks miserable. The beans they give us is filled with stones.

"Lawyers are frustrating  people, once they know that you come from a rich background, they extort money from your family and friends. 

"If your family don’t have money, you can stay locked up for years, so it is either the grace of God or amnesty.

"Don’t let the lawyers fool you. Do you know that the bad ones collect as much as 30,000 Naira and 50,000 Naira for you to see your people in prison. When prison visits are free.”

He claims that a lawyer tried to extort 70,000 Naira from one of his friends who wanted to see him.

The actor, who plays the role of an illiterate trader named ‘Sylvanus’ in the popular “DoGood” comedy series which currently runs on African Magic, seeks reforms for the prisons.

court

He points out that there is need for reform in the entire system, as judges and lawyers only follow what is on the charge sheet, without really finding out what happened.

“It is so sad. The judges don’t ask questions, it is what that the police give to them that they follow.

"Some of these people are victims of circumstances. I met a lot of them while in prison. People who were picked up on the road while returning or going to work, or who were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Like me.” He said.

According to him, some of the men he met in prison, have been there without going to court for years to clear their names.

So, he wants the government to reform both the judicial and prison systems in Nigeria to help prevent  people from being wrongfully arrested.

He had one final word for ‘erring’ lawyers.

“Please lawyers when you collect money from people, please do their job, help them. If you decide to extort them don’t worry, one day nemesis will catch up with you”.


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