Inside the confines that house the Maiduguri Maximum Security Prison in Borno State is a booming array of illegal activities that tether on the dangerous brink of life and death.
From child prostitution to sodomy, abortions, and even outright murder, the situation within the MMSP is a stark reality of the wildest imaginations.
A 31-page piece entitled ‘Sodomy of Children in Maiduguri Prison and The ICRC Conspiracy of Silence’, released on Friday, March 22, 2019 by Charles Okah, chronicles the experience the inmates of the prison are subjected to, sometimes with the cooperation of prison officials.
MMSP is divided into four separate compounds: Clusters 1, 2, 3 and 4. Clusters 1, 2 and 3 are to accommodate men, while another “much smaller compound, ‘Gidan Mata’, is for the female inmates.”
Charles Okah currently occupies Cell 9, Unit 1, Cluster 2 in MMSP.
For some reason, among the 71 persons on death row in MMSP is 13-year-old Suleiman Salisu, who bludgeoned his father to death as a way of saying ‘no more’ to being sexually defiled. The older Salisu had been defiling his son since he was five years old, an action he took after sniffing glue. However, according to Okah’s account, Suleiman’s maternal uncle, Usman Durkwa, who is also Deputy Governor of Borno State, had told the teenager to say during trial that he killed his father because he was unhappy with his sniffing glue.
However, Suleiman, like his peers in prison are far from safe as they have become victims of sexual molestation by older inmates.
It’s also a fight for territory between cats and rats, and within that space is an inmate identified as Yaya, who has taken to raising cats within the walls. Yaya has been on death row for 23 years.
There is also a booming farming business within the prison, as inmates take to bribing prison warders to get access to the available land within the premises to cultivate vegetables. For this, human waste comes to the rescue as manure.
And then, there is child prostitution.
Okah narrates: The first I saw a frightened child same age range as mine locked up inside cages; it had such a profound and a heart-rending effect on me. But of a particular poignancy was the day a pimp approached me to prostitute the boys.
“The pimp, a notorious armed robber serving a fourteen-year jail sentence, a life sentence, and a death sentence, has been on a death row since 2013, but still retained his villainous features. His large red protuberant eyes can be compared to that of a fly; a tsetse fly to be precise.
I can imagine that together with a gun, those eyes must have frightened his victims to total submission. He asked me in halting English if I liked little boys and I replied that ‘of course, I do’. And I went on and on, without him prompting, to tell him I have a nine-year-old boy myself, who I saw last when he was one, and how much I miss him… blah, blah, blah.
“At a point, while I droned on, he began shaking his large head, broad across his temples slowly from side to side. What I was telling him was literally entering into one ear and coming out unfiltered through the other ear that had been deformed by bullet wound. He then proceeded to demonstrate what he actually meant by joining the index finger and thumb tips of his left hand to form a circle, and then with his index finger of his right hand, he poked in and out of the circle.
“As the pimp was poking a dirty finger into the circle, those big eyes bore into me like a laser beam, as if trying to read my thoughts and gauge my seriousness. As he did that, his thick black lips looking like roasted animal hide, curled into certain slyness. I nodded my head to indicate that I understood, but I was in shock. Instead of showing disgust, I decided to play along, maintaining that face many would wear at the visa section of the American embassy when lying to the interviewer as the only way out when candor fails.
“Convinced I was game, he gave me the rates with which to have anal sex or fellatio with a little boy of my choice. The younger the boy, the higher the price, while the mentally challenged or imbeciles as he referred to them, are the costliest because of their fetish/ritual values based on a fallacy that one’s problems or trying circumstances can be transferred to them through intercourse. The cheapest goes for fellatio offered by the children and known as ‘quick relief’.
“Out of curiosity, I opted for an ‘imbecile’ and was taken the next day to cell number 16 in unit 3 of cluster 2 where I met Goni Ali Shettima for the first time, huddled up in a corner with resignation and confusion in those angelic eyes of a child.
“After I expressed disinterest in Goni Ali, I was sworn to secrecy, that night I annulled the oath with solemn vow to spill the beans and do everything within my limits to save the children by telling their story to the world, even at the risk of my life.”
Sexual exploitation within MMSP is not limited to child prostitution among inmates, but to warders who “take undue advantage of female prisoners and detainees under their custody”.
“The trafficking of female inmates for sex with senior prison officers is done through the staff canteen situated inside the bungalow administration building in MMSP. The canteen serves two purposes. On the surface, it looks like any other staff canteen where food and drinks are prepared and served. But beneath the surface, under the supervision of a large imposing female wardress with the rank of senior inspector of prison (SIP), the MMSP staff canteen, like a chameleon, can transform itself in a jiffy into a brothel where the female inmates, used as waitresses and cooks are arranged for quick sex in exchange for cash.”
There is the account of Hauwa ‘Shuwa’ Mohammed, who became pregnant and had to endure a forceful termination of her pregnancy right inside the prison. She came close to losing her life during the incident.
And then there’s the allegation bordering on the conspiracy of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC).
“On Thursday, the 12th of April 2018, led by one Zainab, several ICRC officials visited cluster 2 to see things for themselves. They even entered unit 3 and peeped into cell number 16, holding their breath to see Goni Ali like visitors in a zoo. They spoke to all three boys incarcerated in the death row cells.
“Jotting down notes and pretending to look shocked, the ICRC team, relieved to be out in the fresh air, promised the victims to take up their matter at the ‘highest level’ of government. Nothing was heard from them. Again on September 10th, 2018, Zainab, a regular visitor to the prison who acts superciliously around prisoners, visited MMSP in the company of two female ICRC officials and stopped by cluster 2. When asked why nothing had been done about the plight of abused children and prostituted women, they came up with a lame excuse that, ‘the ICRC is not a human rights body, and would not meddle into sexual abuse or human right issues.’”
Okah’s account, particularly refers to the trio of Goni Ali Shettima, Abba Musa, and Salisu Usman, the three children locked inside death row cells in MMSP. He appealed to Femi Falana, human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), “to bring a fundamental human rights lawsuit against the federal government of Nigeria, naming the Minister of Interior and the Controller General of Prison among others as defendants”.
“The plaintiffs are asking for one billion naira each as damages. They also want the court to declare their continued detention as null, void the court and cruel. They look forward to plunge again into that whirlpool of life, get an education and lead a normal existence as bona fide Nigeria citizens.
“Modibo Musa, whose entire family was arrested along with his late father also wish to bring a similar fundamental human rights law suit against the federal government of Nigeria, naming the Minister of Interior and the Controller-General of Prisons among others, as defendants.
“Modibo and the other plaintiffs made up of his six siblings — Hauwa, Aisha, Halima, Maryam, Usman and Mohammed — are demanding five hundred million naira each as damages. They want the court to declare their continued incarceration null and void and cruel. The ten children wish to find out if the ICRC is culpable and be taken to the International criminal court. They plead to be represented pro bono.”
Okah extended his regards to his family members and a few friends who have not deserted him, as well as comrades and well-wishers who have not heard from him since his transfer from Kuje Prison to MMSP on March 13, 2018.