Live Stream
Radio Ndarason Internationale


Living in hell – 14 years and two days in detention

9 April 2024
Reading time: 4 minutes

Recently released detainees are angry about being wrongly arrested but relieved to be back with their families after spending years in overcrowded prisons with little to no hope of ever being free again.

Living for years with rats and cockroaches, too little food and in severely overcrowded cells have left recently released detainees angry and bitter.

But, despite the wasted time, they are relieved and happy to be free and back home with their families.

“I was held for 14 years in various prisons even though I was innocent. Life was hardly worth living. There were times when I thought I would never live with my family again. I was taken from prison to prison. I almost gave up all hope. I believed I would die in prison,” said Mohammed Yusuf, who was arrested in 2009 on suspicion of being linked to the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), more commonly referred to as Boko Haram.

Yusuf is one of hundreds of men who were arrested by military police during the insurgency in Borno State. They spent years in detention without trial. But in March he and more than 500 other detainees were finally brought before the Federal High Court in Maiduguri.

The court ruled that there was no evidence the men committed any crimes or that they were linked to JAS. It ordered their immediate release.

Yusuf told RNI that he was living in the Fariya community when he was arrested.

“I spent 14 years and two days in detention. It was hell. When I was arrested I was taken to a police station run by the Maiduguri CID [Criminal Investigation Department]. I spent more than a month there. From there I was taken to the Maximum Prison where I was held for more than two years.

“Then I was taken from prison to prison, including the prison in Bauchi, Potiskum in Yobe State, and the Lagos State prison known as Kirikiri. From there they brought us back to Maiduguri Maximum Prison and then to Gombe and finally to the Umaru Shehu Hospital. That is the summary of my life since 2009.

“I went through a lot during that time. I never had peace of mind. When I went to court in March, I was found not guilty of any crime and released. I am extremely happy but I can’t help feeling angry and bitter about being detained for so long when I was innocent all along.

“My wife got married to another man while I was in detention but, fortunately, they separated and she back with me.”

Yusuf’s sister, Fatima Mohammed, told RNI that the family had sold their farmlands trying to get his release.

“But I never lost hope. I prayed every day that he would be freed. I am so grateful he is home. He is hale and hearty and there are no signs of injury.

“He is still angry because he had to spend so much time in detention when he was innocent. But he is happy to be a free man again.”

Baa Kolo, who was also released from detention in March, said: “I was detained for seven years and seven months. Whatever is ordained by Allah will happen, but I was very scared I would never be released.

“The prison was so full of people that if anyone got up to ease himself, there was no place to sit when he returned. We really suffered. You can’t imagine life in prison, especially in hot weather. It was almost unbearable.

“There were so many rats and cockroaches. The cells were filthy and overcrowded. The food was horrible and we were hungry all the time. I am angry and I regret all the time that was wasted. But I am grateful to Allah that I am free. Now I can start living life properly again. It’s a new start.”

RNI was unable to verify a report claiming that the prisoners released in March were the last of those being held under suspicion of having links with JAS. Family members insist that there are still many innocent men in detention.



About the author