I Spent 29 Years in Prison for Following a Masquerade — Ibadan Trader Recounts Ordeal

An Ibadan trader, Abass Owonikoko has narrated how he spent 29 years and eight months in the prison after he was arrested for being in the company of some masquerades in 1993.

Speaking in an interview with Vanguard, Owonikoko, who is a native of Ibadan, explained that he was a trader who sells food items at Bodija. He added that on the 23rd of October, 1993, one of his friends came to his shop and told him that he should accompany him in an outing with his father’s masquerade called Oyi.

During the outing, they met a rival masquerade group called Gbenga Actor. The two groups fought and unfortunately, one person died from Gbenga Actor’s group.

In his words: “I won’t lie, one person died during the clash. We didn’t even know it would become a big problem. After the outing, I went back to work and the following day, while at work I was informed that police officers from Mokola Division had been to my house to look for me and arrested my sister.

“When I was informed about the arrest of my sister, I was afraid and made plans to go to the police station. My wife advised that I go with my lawyer but I told her that it cannot be anything serious.

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“As soon as I got there, I was thrown behind the counter and my sister was released. While I was being interrogated, I discovered that they had arrested all 6 of us that went with the masquerade: Morufu, Sarafa, Akeem, Shola and Akin.

“They asked us if there was something we used to fight the other group and we said we didn’t use anything. Then they asked what other crime have we committed after the fight. We all replied that we didn’t commit any crime. They started torturing us.

“During the torture, 4 of us died leaving only Akeem and I. The police shot me in the hand, burnt me with iron and whipped me mercilessly. I just kept crying.

“On the third day, my family members came to see me in custody to ask the way forward about the case but the police insisted that nothing could be done.

“I spent a whole year at Mokola Police Station in Ibadan from 24/10/1993 to 14/4/1994 before I was taken to court and transferred to Agodi Prisons.

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“I spent 5 years and 8 months at Agodi Prisons. The judgement on my case was delivered on 21/09/1998. I was sentenced to death by execution. The trauma of the judgement led to the death of my mother and father.

“When my wife also heard the judgement and that I had been transferred to Abeokuta, she was coming from Lagos with two of our children and was involved in an accident. Our two children died instantly. Only my wife survived.

“My wife suffered a lot during this incarceration because I was there for 29 years and eight months.

“On 1st October 2008, Late Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala reversed my judgement to life imprisonment. I was released in 2020 by President Muhammad Buhari”, he added.

Owonikoko further called on well-meaning Nigerians for financial assistance, stating that he had spent all the little he had after his release on his wife’s sickness.

“Unfortunately, my wife who stood by me all through the suffering died last year at Ibadan Central Hospital. She was ill and her sickness took all I was given by well-wishers to start a trade with.

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“I spent N850,000 on her illness. Now I’m left with nothing. I sleep on the floor with my only surviving child. I was planning to end my life but I met Pastor Ezekiel who counselled me against the idea.

“What can I do when I have nothing left? My father’s house had collapsed when I was in the prison.

“While in prison, I witnessed the execution of 570 people. However, I found favour from God who is the only one that can determine your fate. I am grateful to God for his mercy.

“Now that I am out of prison after 29 years and 8 months, all because I followed a masquerade, I have nothing left. My house was searched, no weapon or incriminating evidence was found.

“I was 21 years when I was arrested. Now, I am 59 years. Nigerians should please help me. There is nothing to survive on. Don’t let me die like this because this suffering is too much”, Owonikoko pleaded.


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