Life after death row: A man spent 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit

by Apr 14, 2020Lifestyle0 comments

Life after death row: A man spent 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit
Life after death row: A man spent 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit

Each morning, 56-year-old Clinton Kanu wakes up on a thin mattress laid on the tiled floor of his tiny flat.

He lives on the third floor of a modest apartment building in the southeastern Nigerian city of Enugu, in a flat not much bigger than a walk-in closet.

He takes a moment to look around the room. There is not much to see. A battered, rust-coloured armchair sags in the corner beside a barred window that overlooks the neighbourhood’s red dirt roads. Sunlight filters through a lace curtain, exposing the dirt caked into the textured pattern painted on the pale yellow and grey walls.

Kanu is not quite six feet (1.83 metres) tall, but when he stands, his head almost scrapes the ceiling.

He goes through his plans for the day, trying to figure out where he will get something to eat. On this particular Saturday, he decides to go down the road to the home of his sister, Victoria Okoroji.

There, she dishes out scrambled eggs and shares a loaf of bread. Kanu, his sister and her husband eat together at the dining table. After that, she brings out a family photo album.

Kanu smiles at the old pictures of his nieces and nephews. Pictures taken of them when Kanu was not around. Pictures taken during the 27 years Kanu spent in prison for a murder he did not commit.

He has been trying to make up for lost time since he was released last April and trying to get his life back – but neither are easy to do.

Back at his apartment, Kanu brings out a Bible and flips through the pages to one of his favourite passages.

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“And the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt,'” he recites in a gentle voice, eyes moving over the words. In the room’s stuffy heat, beads of sweat settle in the dip above his lip. “‘I have heard their cry.'”

A mild, easy-going man, Kanu says his faith saved him in prison and continues to inspire him, despite his present struggles.

“Look at me, just look at me,” he says. “I have nothing.”

Kanu at the balcony of his apartment looking outside the neighbourhood
Kanu at the balcony of his apartment looking outside the neighbourhood

His problems began when he tried to help solve a case involving theft and a dispute over family land. When a man connected to the dispute died, someone accused Kanu of murdering him, even though he was more than 100km from the scene of the crime.

In 1992, he was arrested. He maintains that his arrest was politically motivated; that he was framed by people who were envious of his connections to government officials.

He was detained in a small prison in the southeastern city of Owerri to await trial. He waited for several years.

Looking back at it all, he believes he was a victim of the corruption in Nigeria’s criminal justice system.

“The height of wickedness,” he says, his face twisted into a scowl. “The height of crudeness, the height of treachery, the height of judicial murder.”

Nigeria’s criminal justice system is rife with corruption. In the past, judges have been suspended for misconduct and caught accepting bribes.

Excessive delays compound the problems, with enormous backlogs of stagnant legal cases. Nearly 70 percent of the country’s approximately 74,000 prison inmates are awaiting trial. The long waits contribute to overcrowded prisons.

Kanu in the church service
Kanu in the church service

The maximum-security prison in Port Harcourt where Kanu was transferred after he was sentenced in 2005, held more than 4,000 inmates last year, although it was built for 804, according to figures from the federal government. Read more

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