Goni Ali Shettima is an 11-year-old boy living with a mental condition akin to autism. Since the age of eight, he has also been living in bondage – held captive within the confines of Maiduguri Maximum Security Prison, Borno State, in North-East Nigeria. More specifically, he is in Cell Number 16, Unit 3, Cluster 2.
He is yet another hapless victim of the gross violation of human rights, sexual abuses and prostitution of women and children inside a federal prison in Nigeria.
The concentration camp
There are four separate compounds within the MMSP yard accommodating over 1,550 inmates. They are clusters 1, 2 and 3 for men and a much smaller compound, ‘Gidan Mata’, the female section.
The men awaiting or standing trial are confined in cluster 1, and already convicted men serve their time in cluster 3. The Boko Haram insurgency altered this arrangement with the influx of detainees, who were squeezed into every available space.
‘Gidan Mata’, which lumps every category of female inmates together, was originally purpose-built to incarcerate only “very important persons”. It was converted later to the female custody after remaining empty for many years in spite of the high rate of corruption and vice involving the elite.
The compound for women is a stifling prison within a prison and that has been responsible for the depressive bipolar behaviour of most of its inhabitants, which is erroneously attributed to evil spirits.
A peaceful but noisy protest by the women on Saturday, October 13, 2018, over their harsh living conditions was brutally suppressed by the prison’s armed squad with severe beatings; freshly cut branches were used to flog them all over their bodies, and batons on the joints of the ring leaders, leaving several of the protesters with broken bones. The scream of women on that day was terrible. It was an awful spectacle.
The last bus stop
Cluster 2, also known as ‘the last bus stop’, is an insalubrious, octagon-shaped, reinforced concrete structure built on one level with a capacious central courtyard. It is divided into six identical units, with each unit comprised of 16 cells, except that of unit 1 with 15.
The 95 death row cells, aptly to be described as cages, are reserved for condemned men awaiting the hangman’s noose in a currently disused and rusty gallows. A total of 71 persons are on death row in MMSP. They are made up of 65 men, three women, and one confused 13-year-old boy, who committed patricide.
The defiant teenager, Suleiman Salisu, bludgeoned his father to death with repeated blows of a club to his head for sexually defiling him since he was five years old. He said the abuses always occurred whenever his father, who doubted his paternity, reached a state of excitement after sniffing glue. Then in 2017, one fateful night in February, Suleiman did the contrary. He said “no more” and snapped.
During his short trial, following the selfish advice of his maternal uncle, Usman Durkwa (Deputy Governor of Borno State), to hide the family’s embarrassing secret, Suleiman then testified in court that his only motive for murder was “anger” at the glue-sniffing addiction of his father. Without even considering a psychiatric evaluation, the judge, Justice Umar Zanna Fadau, living up to his reputation as “the hanging judge”, sentenced the then 12-year-old child to death by hanging.
Anger, avarice, covetousness, envy, hatred, jealousy, psychopathic disorder, an unforgiving spirit; all these are the negative emotions and thought-cankers, the evil spirits, tempestuous passions and mind-diseases behind the homicides that landed these men, women and unfortunate boy in the last bus stop of sorrow, and remorse, and unbounded impenitence.