A Nigerian man has been released after spending 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
In 1992, Clinton Kanu, was convicted of a murder charge and was incarcerated at Pot Harcourt Maximum Prisons in Rivers State. He was 30 years old at the time.
While in prison, he claimed to have continued his education and obtained a Phd. However, according to Kemi Filani News, his case still being appealed during all his years in prison until it reached the Supreme Court. He was finally acquitted of the charge on 5th April, 2019. His relatives who showed up at the prison to receive him expressed their joy of one of their own leaving the four walls of the prison.
Upon his release, Kanu is calling for a reform of the judicial system as some of his former inmates were also in the same boat as he was. There are still some who were convicted wrongfully or unlawfully.
Just two years ago, according to Online Nigeria, five men that had been wrongfully accused of murder were finally released from Enugu prison.
According to one of them, it all started when they were arrested by Enugu SARS and detained in their cell. While there, a fellow detainee, who was asthmatic died after being tortured by some of the SARS men. As a result, the five men were wrongly accused of his murder and were charged. They spent five years in Enugu prison awaiting the trial but were finally discharged and acquitted Hon. Justice Nwobodo in November, 2017.
These are some of the cases that has warranted Clinton Kanu calling for a judicial reform. According to Premium Times, in 2017, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen had outlined some reforms that he planned for the judiciary. His goal was to root out corruption in the system. In a speech he gave at an event marking the opening of a new legal year and the swearing-in ceremony of new senior advocates, he expressed this desire. He said:
“We must not lose sight of the indispensable role of the judiciary in the fight against corruption. Corruption continues to place the judiciary in the eye of the storm, but we cannot allow that to deter us or weaken our resolve. It is regrettable that the image of the judiciary has been tarnished by the notion that the Nigerian Judiciary is bedevilled by corrupt elements, hence the need for an image-buildingparade.
“We must accept that acts of misconduct of a few rub off on the rest of the judiciary and create the impression that all judicial officers have their hands soiled with the proceeds of corruption.”
However, the plot twist came when the president suspended Onnoghen from his role as the Chief Justice for false declaration of assets in January, 2019. In a presidential address to the nation, the president said:
“Although the allegations in the petition are grievous enough in themselves, the security agencies have since then traced other suspicious transactions running into millions of dollars to the CJN’s personal accounts, all undeclared or improperly declared as required by law,”
He was charged and faced trial with the Code of Conduct tribunal. On April 18, 2019. According to Sahara Reporters, he was found guilty of false declaration of assets and ultimately removed as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
With the allegations of corruption against the former CJN, 20 SANS decided to take on the mantle to reform the judiciary. According to PM news, in February 2019, the SANS expressed their desire to begin work as soon as possible. In a statement they said:
“The need for action is urgent. We will commence our work immediately, and we will operate on the basis of transparency, objectivity and inclusiveness. We will soon publish details of how we propose to engage and collaborate with all stakeholders, especially the Nigerian Bar Association. Let us act now to save our profession and our nation.”