… convicted for armed robbery but met real culprits in prison
By Henry Ojelu
In 1995, Mumuni Adisa left his family in Lagos Island for a party in Ibadan, Oyo State in the company of two of his friends. It was a weekend, so he planned to return before Monday to attend to his thriving business.
By a twist of fate, Adisa never attended the party for which he travelled, instead, he ended up at a Police station where he was accused of armed robbery with his friends.
Although he insists the charges were strange to him as he had never been involved in a crime, he was convicted and sentenced to death. In this edition, Adisa who was recently granted amnesty shares with Encounter, his 20 years of terrible ordeal waiting endlessly for the hangman’s rope and how he is struggling to rebuild his life.
How it started
My name is Mumuni Adisa. I am 53 years old and a businessman. In 1995, two of my friends, Wahab Alao and Fatai Busari invited me to join them to attend a party in Ibadan, Oyo State. When we got to an area called Ile-Epo, we went into a pharmaceutical shop to buy drugs for Alao who had pile. As we made our way out of the shop, some people started shouting that we were thieves. Before we knew what was happening, a team of policemen rounded us up and dragged us into their van.
The scene was a big surprise for me because I am not a thief and have never been involved in any criminal activity. We were taken to the police station and on the second day, my family came to visit me. My family was shocked when the police said I was part of an armed robbery gang because they know I have never been involved in a crime. The police later said my friends and I were part of the gang that killed a former Commissioner of Police a year earlier in Ibadan. I initially refused to sign the statement they prepared for me indicting me of armed robbery but after many threats to kill me and my friends, I signed the statement.
A few weeks after our arrest, we were arraigned before an Ibadan High Court for armed robbery. We were remanded at Agodi prison. My family got a lawyer to apply for bail for me on three occasions and on each occasion, the court turned it down because the allegations against me by the prosecutor could attract capital punishment.. Shockingly, the robbery incident that the police alleged that I took part in happened in 1994 while I was arrested in 1995.
Before my arrest, I had not travelled to Ibadan the previous year so I was surprised when the police alleged that I was among the gang that killed one CP Kolawole. Again, no weapon was found on me when I was arrested so I don’t know where the police got the gun they said they found on me. It was after we got to the police station that someone told us that a robbery had happened at the spot where we were arrested a few months back and that the police were on the lookout for the perpetrators of the crime.
During the trial, the police relied heavily on the confessional statement that I was forced to sign. Despite the effort made by my lawyer, the trial judge upheld the charges and convicted me of armed robbery in 2002. I appealed against my conviction but the Court of Appeal also upheld the decision of the lower court. The Supreme Court also did the same thing.
How my father-in-law died helping me
During my incarceration, my father-in-law was always coming to visit me in prison. On every visit, he would always bring food and money for my welfare. He maintained that routine until the day he was murdered by some criminals just after the 3rd Mainland Bridge, in Lagos. He left home very early and boarded a bus to Ibadan at the CMS bus stop not knowing that criminals were inside the bus. They thought the food he was bringing for me which he wrapped with nylon was a bundle of money so they forcefully took it from him and strangled him before throwing him out of the moving bus.
Sympathizers gathered around his lifeless body and even one of his daughters who was passing by also saw the crowd but did not know that it was her father that was lying dead. It was much later when they started looking for him that it was discovered that he was the person that was killed in the morning. I was very sad over the incident and was not myself for weeks. He believed in my innocence and was always bringing me food and giving me words of encouragement.
Death row ordeal
The death row was hell and I will never wish my worst enemy a day inside the death row cell. I ate, drank, defecatea and did everything within the cell. The heat inside the cell cannot be compared with anything. We were treated like dead people by the prison warders. The scariest part of my experience was whenever prison officials came to pick any of us for execution. When I newly got into the cell, the execution of condemned inmates was a regular occurrence. We usually don’t know who will be executed next amongst us so whenever we heard the prison officials marching towards our cell, we began to panic.
Some would begin to stool while others would begin to say their last prayer. Execution was a frequent thing, so I was living one day at a time believing that I might be the next person. We may just finish a meal in the morning and the next thing you will see prison warders coming to take any of us for hanging. One thing that gave me little hope was when I remembered my vow before my wife on the day my judgment was pronounced that I was innocent. I told her that I would return home one day because I am innocent.
Met real culprits in prison
I met one of the persons who killed the Police officer whom we were convicted of inside the prison. During one of our open-out sessions, we were just talking with one another before taking a bath when one inmate who was convicted of armed robbery called me out and confessed that he was a member of the gang that killed the Police Commissioner during a robbery in 1994.
The Police Commissioner was the same officer police charged my friends and me for killing. I was shocked by his revelation but there was nothing I could do. After the confession, the inmate started distancing himself from me and I sensed that he thought I would report his disclosure to the authorities.
When I told my other co-convicts, they were also shocked but there was nothing we could do because by then, the Supreme Court had confirmed our conviction. I learned the inmate and his gang were convicted for another murder. Surprisingly, they were granted amnesty after also serving years on death row.
Bad influence in prison
Prison is full of bad influences and it takes the grace of God for someone to spend years there without being influenced. Inside the prison, you will meet real heartless killers, kidnappers, fraudsters, cultists, and petty thieves. So when you get in there, you mix with everyone. Sometimes they form gangs inside the prison so if an innocent man who was unjustly incarcerated finds himself in such an environment, it will take the grace of God for him to still be himself. It was a big struggle for me but I remained myself throughout my stay before I was granted amnesty.
I appreciate my wife for remaining faithful to our marriage and taking care of our children while I was in prison. I know it must have been a difficult period for her because she was always sharing with me the struggles she was passing through. She did all manners of jobs to take care of our children after my business crumbled. The money realised from the sale of my property was used to pay lawyers handling my case. So she had practically nothing to take care of the children. She is a good woman and I am grateful for all her support. It is only God that will reward her.
The two of my friends with whom we were convicted were released earlier this year after our death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. I thought that naturally, they would release me just like my friends but surprisingly, nothing was done about my release. My family had to engage a lawyer who took over my case and wrote the Amnesty Committee. It was after that letter that I was released.
7 years awaiting trial and 20 years on death row has taught me big lessons. First, I will never follow anyone on an occasion that I don’t know what it is about. It was because I followed my friends to a party that I wasted 27 years of my life. I run away from the company of young girls because I witnessed cases of innocent people being framed for rape. I also avoid fights and needless arguments. Many people ended up in prison because of needless fights that led to manslaughter or murder and they are regretting their actions in prison. You only know the beginning of a fight but not the ending.
Jobless, appeal for support
Since I was released from prison last month, things have been extremely difficult for me. My first challenge was getting used to my environment again. A lot of things have changed in the last 27 years and I am trying to acclimatise. I have also been depending on my friends and family for feeding and it has not been easy for me.
What I need now is a little support from anybody to start my life afresh. I will appreciate any help or job offer from anyone.
Financial support for Mumuni Adisa can be sent to his FCMB acct No. 9756587013