19th September, 2013
A 40-year-old man, Toyese Kehinde, who allegedly died in the cells of Benin Central Prisons in the early hours of 9 September, 2013, was buried by authorities of the prisons authorities without the consent of his family members.
Kehinde, a musician and father of six children, was sentenced to two weeks imprisonment following his failure to pay the N5,000 fine option granted him by Egor Magistrate’s Court 1, in Benin City, southern Nigeria, over environmental Offense.
The family allegedly got to know about his fate through a friend of the late Kehinde who informed them of his arrest and imprisonment.
Following his failure to show up at home at the expiration of his jail term, his brother, Adewale Kehinde, and another friend approached the Prisons authority to demand for the release of their son, only to be told that the convict had died and had been buried.
“We saw him last on the Friday of the environmental day. We later heard that he was arrested for flouting environmental restrictions and was sentenced to two weeks imprisonment as he was unable to pay the option of N5000 fine.
“When he failed to return after two days, we went to the prisons, only to be told that he died on 9 September and was buried. The man who spoke to us gave us a paper that he died.”
Adewale said it was disturbing that his brother died in the custody of the prisons officials and was buried without them telling the family members, even though there was a contact name and address given by the late Toyese while in their custody.
A note under the subject, “Death of Convict No. V. 1176 Toyese Kehinde in Charge No. ELG/004/13,” signed by Asst. Supt. of Prisons II (Admin) for the Deputy Controller or Prisons, a copy of which was made available to the family of the deceased, alleged that he died after a protracted illness, an allegation refuted by the deceased’s brother who said he was hale and hearty before his arrest and conviction.
The note which was copied to the Controller-General of Prisons, Abuja and others, read as follows: “I am directed to inform you of the death of the above-named convicted prisoner. He died in the early hours of 9th September, 2013 after a protracted illness.
“He was sentenced to two weeks imprisonment or N5000.00 fine on the 31st August, 2013 by Egor Magistrate’s Court 1, Benin City for failing to observe sanitation exercise.
“It would be appreciated if you could conduct an inquest and forward the proceedings to this office for onward transition to the Controller-General of Prisons Service, Abuja please.”
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of Edo State Prisons Headquarters, Suleman Aminu, claimed he has no knowledge of the death of the convict.
“I don’t want to say anything categorically now whether the family members of the convict was informed or not. I have not been fully briefed. I will have to crave your indulgence to give me some time to consult with the Controller to enable us carry out investigations as to why a death occurred in one of our prisons and the victim was buried and we did not know,” Aminu said.