Court restrains Nigeria Correctional Service from burying inmate killed during lockdown

No justice for inmates killed by Nigerian prison officials

A Kaduna High Court has restricted the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS) from burying a late inmate, Wisdom Felix.

The restraining order was issued by Bilkisu Mohammed following an ex-parte motion filed by a human rights organisation, Incorporated Trustees of Global Rights, on behalf of Mr Felix’ family.

The organisation, popularly known as House of Justice, had asked the court to restrain from executing a warrant to bury the deceased inmate.

The 25-year-old was one of at least five inmates killed by prison warders during COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. The NCS said the inmates attempted jail break but witnesses countered this narrative.

Not satisfied by the official explanation of the NCS and the conditions attached to release of the corpse, Mr Felix’ family members are yet to retrieve or bury him. Instead, they sought legal options from the court.

PREMIUM TIMES recently published a series on all the cases of extra-judicial killings perpetrated by Nigeria security officers during COVID-19 lockdown. In the second part, which treated Mr Felix’s case, PREMIUM TIMES found that the NCS was only working to cover up the killings without any attempt at justice.

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In the motion, Incorporated Trustees of Global Rights asked the court to restrain both Kaduna Controller of Correctional Service and the Superintendent of the Kaduna Correctional Service to restrain from executing a warrant to bury dated April 7, 2020.

“The family of Elvis Wisdom Adekpe heard from the grape vine that Elvis was going to be buried and that the Kaduna Maximum Corrections had sought and obtained a warrant to bury from the Magistrate Court which indicated that Elvis had died from “blunt trauma,” the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), House of Justice, told PREMIUM TIMES. “We then wrote to the Kaduna Command of Corrections Service to inquire if Elvis had been buried but the legal officer informed our staff that they were instructed not to receive any letter or process in that regard without the approval of headquarters.”

With this latest development, House of Justice filed a motion ex-parte before the high court and obtained a restraining order from executing the warrant to bury pending the determination of the suit initially filed on March 27.

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“An order of injunction is granted restraining the 2nd (Kaduna Controller of Correctional Service) and 3rd (Superintendent of the Kaduna Correctional Service) respondents from executing the warrant to bury dated the 7/4/2020 and issued by coroner’s court of Kaduna in respect of M.1973 WISDOM FELIX (INMATE) pending the determination of the case,” a copy of the order sighted by PREMIUM TIMES reads.

Originating suit

In the originating suit, House of Justice sought to enforce Mr Felix’ fundamental human right to life and protection as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution and other international charters the country is a signatory to.

Further, they prayed the court to issue an order compelling the correctional service to perform an autopsy on the dead body, release the result and the body thereafter.

In compensation, the suit asked the court to grant ten million Naira ‘against the respondents…as compensation to applicants being dependents of late Wisdom Adekpe Felix for the unlawful breach of fundamental rights to life.’

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Earlier, the organisation had written the Attorney General of Kaduna State to request that the office set up a Coroner’s Inquest for all the inmates who died on or about March 31, 2020 in the Kaduna Maximum Custodial Centre. In a reply, the Attorney-General said Kaduna State was yet to domesticate the Freedom of Information Act and that it was the responsibility of the Controller-General to institute an Inquest on deaths in prisons.

A similar request to the Controller, Kaduna Maximum Custodial Centre was yet to be responded to.

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