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Bashir Ali, an inmate of Kaduna Prison, has confessed to the police how he managed to sneak out of the prison for days just to collect his share from a robbery incident that took place in Kano.
Ali whose mother is from Tokyo, Japan, was arrested alongside some of his gang members identified as Umaru Inusa, Ahmed Kamalu, Adamu Danjuma and Barfa Ahmad by detectives attached to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Special Tactical Squad (STS).
On his arrest, police sources said that sometime in June, a gang of robbers invaded Kofaruwa quarters in Kano and robbed about three houses. They stole a Toyota Matrix car and several valuables, which include laptops, television sets, phones and money.
The victims alerted the operatives of STS while the officer in-charge of the squad, ACP Yusuf Kolo deployed detectives to fish out the gang members. In the course of investigation, they arrested some of the gang members and recovered the car and some other valuables that they were yet to dispose.
It was in the process of further investigation that detectives discovered that one of the masterminds of the robbery, Bashir Ali was in Kaduna prison. Unknown to him (Ali), some of his gang members had been arrested by the police. Hoping that it was business as usual, Ali sneaked out of the prison to collect his share from the proceeds of the robbery when policemen who were on his trail arrested him.
Journey to prison
At the police station, Ali who speaks impeccable English said it was greed that landed him in prison as he is from a good home. “I am an indigene of Kano State and my mother is from Tokyo. She came to Kano with her parents who were traders. In the process, she (Ali’s mother) fell in love with my father and I am a proud product of that love. I am married and I have three kids. I have no reason to commit crime because I also have an option of travelling to Tokyo if I was not satisfied with my financial status in Nigeria.”
On his journey to Kano Central prison, Karaumawa, Ali recalled that sometime in 2010, he got involved in a shady business, which led to the sale of a property in Kano that belongs to one of his friends.
“Boys were broke so we were looking for every possible means to make money. So my friend Ahmed who just lost his father then told me that he wanted to sell one of his father’s houses without the consent of the family. He said that since he was also part of the family that no one will question his decision. We got several estate agents involved and finally sold it for N8million.
“Unfortunately, when the buyer wanted to take possession of the property, the family members refused insisting that they never consented to it and that the documents presented were stolen.
We were arrested same year and charged to court. I was sentenced to seven years jail in 2015 after awaiting trial for two years.”
After several years, Ali claimed that he was able to convince the prison warders that he had truly repented of his sins and was ready to be rehabilitated.
According to him, eleven of them were selected and transferred to Kaduna rehabilitation prison popularly known as Open Camp.
“I was lucky that they selected me in 2015. When we got to the camp, I chose to be a farmer where I learnt how to cultivate vegetables including curry leaves and waterleaves. The proceeds you get from the farm will be saved for you so that when you finish your stay in the prison, you will have money to start a new life.
In that prison you are free to roam around and sneak in and out of the yard unnoticed. The rule was that you must come for head count every 10am, 12pm, 2am and 6pm. So if you don’t want to get into trouble, wherever you go, you must return for head count.”
He also alleged that the prison warders who were taking care of them were aware of these movements and normally keep tab on them. “It is a game of trust. The warder must approve of your movement so that if you mistakenly fail to return on time, he will give you a number in absence. We all have phones and whenever you cannot make it back on time, you will call the warder and tell him. It is also your responsibility to ensure that the warder is well taken care of financially so that he can cover for you in case you want to travel and spend some days outside.”
On his arrest, Ali lamented that while in Kano prison, he made a lot friends who have served out their jail terms. He collected most of their numbers and agreed to exchange ideas.
“It is good to make friends so that when they leave, they will help with money. Most of them who left went back to crime and normally send money to us.
“So while in Kaduna prison, one of them contacted me that they were broke and needed any means of making quick money.
It was during the Ramadan fast and everyone needed money to celebrate after the fasting. I gave them some ideas and people to meet. At the end of the robbery operation, they cheated me and hid the physical cash that they got. Luckily, Bawa kept one of the cars for me. I then referred them to an ex-convict who is into buying stolen cars.
They were on their way to deliver the car and money when police caught them. They were so wicked that they did not alert me that they had been caught. Rather, they called to tell me that the car had been sold that I should come to Zaria and collect my share.
“Few days to Sallah, I told the yard master popularly known as Baba Kubo and he granted me some days to travel. He knows that I will always come back, that was why he agreed. So around 12pm that day I left for Kano where they were supposed to wait for me. Because I did not have much money, I visited some of my friends in town and got some money before I proceeded to the agreed location. It was there that police arrested me,” he said.
Plea for mercy
Begging for mercy, Ali said he had truly repented but was just looking for money to buy Sallah gifts for himself and the warders who were kind to him. “I am finished; I can’t believe that I am going to start all over again. Please help me and don’t send me back to prison.”
He alleged that his life will get worse if he is sent back to prison. “The prison will turn you into a criminal. It does not change anyone because an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Most especially, if you are from a poor home, no one will visit you or help you with money to hire a lawyer. There are so many people who stole chicken and goat that are in the prison. They are there because they could not afford the option of fine given by the magistrate.
“I assure you that by the time they spend a year or two serving their sentence they will steal a car as soon as they are released,” he alleged.
Another suspect, Adamu who contacted Ali for the robbery claimed that he was simply obeying the instruction of his brother, Bawa. “My brother called me to get in-touch with Ali that he is aware of the robbery and the proceeds. It was Ali who gave us the number of the buyer. We were on our way to Zaria to meet the buyer when policemen caught us.”
Yet another suspect, Bafa, an Islamic cleric said that it was greed that led them to committing crime. “I am a native of Maiduguri and my parents decided to send me to Arabic school to learn how to be a priest. Upon graduation, I started praying for people in trouble. This did not give me enough money because I normally collect N500 to pray for people and if they succeed they might come back to appreciate me.
Some of them are criminals and when they succeed they will come back and give me gifts. This was how Kabiru and three other boys came to me. After the robbery, they brought the car and asked me to help them sell it. It was a Toyota Matrix and they wanted to sell it for N800, 000. The agreement was that whatever extra money we get from the sale belongs to me. We were on our way to meet the buyer when the police arrested us,” he said.
Prison Service reacts
When contacted, the Nigeria Prison Service Public Relations Officer, Francis Enabore said that no inmate in the Kaduna open prison is allowed to leave the premises unaccompanied. “These are inmates who have spent better part of their sentences in the regular prisons with walls. They are recommended by their prison warder to be of good behaviour.
They are transferred to that prison to prepare them for the journey ahead when they finally regain their freedom. They are allowed to visit the farms, which are within the premises and monitored from a distance. Any attempt to leave the premises, the person will be cautioned. These inmates who are determined to be better persons in the society normally obey the law guarding the prison.”
On the recent arrest of Ali outside the prison, Enabore assured that the discovery will be investigated and any officer found culpable will be dealt with according to the law.
Meanwhile another senior prison officer who spoke with Saturday Sun on the condition of anonymity explained that the Kaduna open prison is meant for inmates who have proven beyond all reasonable doubt that they are of good behavior. “Such person will be recommended by warders who have monitored them over the years.
They are selected all over the country to go to that prison for proper rehabilitation. They are taught different handiworks including farming. The proceeds gotten will be saved for them, which will be given to the inmates at the end of their stay in prison.
“Such persons are allowed to wander around the yard especially to their farms. They are expected to return every 6pm for head count. They are not allowed to travel, therefore any officer who permits that will be punished.”
On the arrest of Ali, he said that most of the inmates are good at deceiving the system. “They pretend to have repented just to be released. I guess Ali is a typical example of such. It’s unfortunate that the officer who approved his transfer will be in trouble.”