When Akin got a job offer from a respected member of his church, he was excited.

He thought working for his pastor was like working in his own father’s company.

He gave his best on the job as the only accounts officer and ensured that not a kobo was mismanaged in the company.

But for two years, “Daddy” refused to pay him the 10,000 Naira salary as verbally agreed.

All he kept hearing was a vague promise of “I will do you well”.

Bills were piling and Akin practically lived every day on debt while the company continued to make great revenue.

Feeling cheated and forgotten, he decided to pay himself all his salary arrears and was honest enough to confirm the payment in company records.

Little did he know that he had drawn the anger of his boss, who insisted that he should return the money. But he did not have the money – it all went into paying debts. Daddy vowed to deal with him.

Akin’s Mistake

Oga followed up his threat with action and Akin found himself in jail. Then he knew he was in deep trouble.

“Because I trusted him; he was a pastor and I attended the same church (with him), I just believed that whatever he said, he had integrity. I never bothered to have any written agreement – everything was verbal.

“Before I knew anything, the police came to pick me up and locked me up in the cell for seven days. It took the intervention of a lawyer whom I never knew before I was released on the 7th day.

“While I was there, I told the police all that happened and he also told the police he indeed agreed to pay me but we never had an agreement written on it.

“So, the police told me I was foolish not to have had a written agreement with him,” he said.

Welcome To Prison

Few days after, Akin was summoned to report at the police station but as a novice who knew nothing about law and crime, he went alone, only to be told he was to appear in court.

Akin appeared before the judge, armed only with his “not guilty” plea – no lawyer, no witness.

As expected, the case was adjourned but the bad news was the judge ruled that the accused be remanded in prison until the next hearing in 21 days!

Akin had no idea what had just befallen him until he made his entry into the Ilorin Prison where he was to be “awaiting trial”.

“When I got to the prison, the first thing they did was to take my biodata and all items I had in my possession but I was shocked by what more I saw.

“I was put in a room that was supposed to be for eight people but the number of people that were there was over 50. I thought that room was the worst thing any man could ever see.

“It was dirty, full of flies, lice and all sort of insects. You could not even use the bathroom or the toilet and everything was within the same room.

“If we want to sleep at night, what we did was to lie on the floor with Mr A’s head in the front and Mr B must align his own head by the legs of Mr A. We were arranged like sardines in a can,” he recalled.

Their daily ‘welcome party’ also remained unforgettable; “Every day there is a new person they ask the person to dance after telling them what brought you. If you don’t dance, you will receive the beating of your life”.

Innocent But Stuck

“Another thing I saw in the prison is that they don’t lie to themselves, they don’t keep secrets. Everybody opens up (such that) by the time you get there you will know what happened and I saw that many people in the prison never did what they said they did.

“I also observed there were a lot of people in the awaiting trial list that could not contact their family because they committed a crime away from where their family was.

“Nobody was willing to help them and they could not pay for a lawyer’s service. So, a lot of people were on awaiting trial list for six to 12 years in prison and they had turned into something else.

“One thing that is common in the prison is that you go there clean and come out dirty because you are mixed with people of terrible character.

“I was mixed with hardened criminals; armed robbers, rapists, killers, people who never cared about human life.

“Some of them proudly told us there was nothing to life than to make money whichever way and they had people supporting them in the prison.”

Sodomy, Hunger

Sodomy or homosexuality was another common issue Akin had to deal with.

“I saw a lot of them making passes at me and using their hands to touch (me) and then you see them at night (doing it) even when the prison authority says ‘no sodomy’. You see men sleeping with men.

“Their food was nothing to write home about despite the fact that the government claims to be spending a lot on them.

“I don’t think their beans is even picked at all. I don’t think their rice is washed before it is cooked. Meat? Fish?

“And they serve their food in one stainless bowl and when they bring the food they will just be throwing it on the floor through the metal door and they will be counting ‘one, two, three…’ up to the number of people in each cell.

“Even if the food spills, it spills. The coordinator will tell you you are eating it. So, I was never able to eat their food throughout my 21 days but for once when I decided to have a taste of what those people were eating gladly.

“This day, I felt sorry for all those people who were there for years. I took one spoon of rice and beans that was mixed together and the first thing my teeth met was stones, as if they deliberately poured stones in the food.

“I quickly reverted to my cabin biscuit and water which the prison officials were kind enough to allow me buy.

Freedom Is Priceless

“I listened to everybody and met a lot of people who wanted to talk to me about their lives. One thing they always prayed for was freedom.

“I saw someone who was just fighting with a colleague. He simply returned a slap he had received and the man died and he was held for murder. He kept regretting and asking God for a second chance.”

Akin would eventually get his own freedom too but he did not escape the horrific 21 days ordered by the judge.

He had his day in court and was  discharged and acquitted after his family rallied around to get a lawyer.

Akin moved on with his life and is now a successful businessman but the pain still feels fresh. “Those 21 days were like 21 years for me because I never saw a day I slept over the night,” he recalled.

Akin learnt his lesson the hard way and now warns: “No matter how close anyone is to you, if you enter into any agreement, please don’t do it verbally; make sure it is in black and white.”

He also has a request; hardened criminals should not be kept with people who have had just minor issues.

He wants government to create a separate place for hardened criminals as they only help to breed more criminals when allowed to stay with regular people.

“It should be a correctional facility,” he said, sadly.