By Lekan Bilesanmi
WHEN Olurotimi Sikiru, an awaiting trial suspect, regained his freedom from Ikoyi Prison on February 14, 2003, after 13 years of incarceration, he had heaved a sigh of relief that he was going back into the society to live a normal life and continue to be a breadwinner of his family.
But nine years after, Sikiru has continued to run from pillar to post, without means of livelihood. “I am yet to get employment up till this moment, I still rely on handouts that I get from people to feed myself and my children,”he states as he fought back tears over his predicament. The latest of the challenges facing him is the loss of his wife at childbirth. The woman left behind a set of twins.
He sees his sojourn at Ikoyi Prison as a typical example of man’s inhumanity to man, recalling vividly that he was railroaded into prison by a certain policeman whom he alleged bought his standing fan which he gave to a technician for repairs.
“The standing fan was given to me by my German boss while I was a driver with Julius Berger. My repeated calls to the technician’s workshop at Odomole, Epe, Lagos did not yield any result. One day I got him in his workshop, and I demanded my fan. But he could not give me a satisfactory answer . This was after having paid him for the spare parts he needed to buy and service charge”, he narrates.
That sad event, he explains, happened in February 1990, and he only got the technician in June of the same year. It was later he got to know that the technician had sold the fan to a policeman. “The whole thing degenerated into a scuffle, and I had to send one of my colleagues to Epe Police Station to report my ordeal there. Later, a policeman came and arrested the technician and he was detained. Since I was wounded by the technician, I was taken to the General Hospital Epe for treatment.”
This was where his journey to Ikoyi Prison started. Sikiru, who could not remember the specific date, says he went back to the police station the next day. As he was standing outside, a slim man who was in mufti passed by him and entered the police station.
He narrates further, “When the man came out he told me that he was a brother to the technician. He said I should give him time to get me another fan. I rejected this offer, and insisted that I wanted my own fan. When I returned to the station the next day, I found the man now in police uniform. Before I knew what was happening, the Divisional Crime Officer told me that the Divisional Police Officer said that I should be detained. I protested but I was clamped into cell. It was later I got to know that my fan was sold to the slim police man.”
According to Sikiru, the next day, he was transferred to the State CID, Panti where he was detained for three months, June to August 1990. “It was in August 1990 I was taken to Magistrate Court 3, Yaba, and my charge sheet read attempted robbery. I was ordered to be remanded in Ikoyi Prison, and I was there for 13 years without trial”, he says.
While in prison, Sikiru states that he kept on hoping that one day his case would be revisited and he would be set free. He added that he made efforts to get himself somebody among the lawyers who were coming to the prison to argue for his release but everything proved abortive.
“I paid some of them money which my family members raised for them to argue the case for my release but each time they collected the money, they vanished into thin air”, Sikiru says. He carried on with his Catholic faith even in prison, as he claims that he taught some inmates how to use the rosary and some other aspects of the faith.
But mother luck smiled on him 13 years after. He was set free on February 4, 2003.
He speaks on how reprieve came for him: “Some people from the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) came to Ikoyi Prison and they took up my case. I was in the prison when they went to court and argued my case. I was released on February 14, 2003. I did not give them money. These were the people God used to set me free.”
Sikiru, who was a transporter, wants to go back to his former trade but he says all his attempts have been futile. He does not have the money to purchase a bus after his long years in prison grounded his business and none of his family members is in the position to assist.
The token assistance he has received came through the Prison Rehabilitation Mission International (PREMI), headed by Pastor Williams, and Oba Adedapo Tejuosho, the Oshile of Oke Ona-Egba. He says PREMI arranged for him to meet former President Olusegun Obasanjo while in power but nothing substantial to set him up in business came out of it.
He was also scheduled to meet former Governor Bola Tinubu, but that also was frustrated. And so bad was his financial situation recently when his wife went into labour and had to be operated on that he had to run to a former governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, for help.
The former governor referred him to a government owned hospital. Even then, the wife, who eventually gave birth to twins, died. This is like compounding the problem of somebody who has no means of livelihood. Sikiru is practically on his knees, begging philanthropists and government across the country to come to his aid. He wants a new bus so that he can return to his transport business, earn a living and take care of the twins whose mother is no more.
The former prison inmate can be reached on phone number 08123879366 or through Sunday Vanguard Editor.