When Rukayat Job was 13, she met Jackson in her mother’s beer parlour in 2009. She thought luck had smiled on her when he asked her to be his lover. For awhile, they enjoyed their relationship until tragedy suddenly struck.
Job was arrested for the murder of a man in the Oyingbo area of Lagos. The victim was allegedly shot accidentally as policemen tried to quell a fight between Jackson, then Job’s ex boyfriend and some friends of her current lover, Joshua.
Now Job, 16, who is a Ghanaian by birth, is marking time at the female wing of the Kirikiri Prison for an offence she did not commit.
The teenager claims the murder took place in her absence. Speaking alternately in English and then Yoruba, when words failed her, she recounts the circumstances surrounding her relationship with Jackson.
She says, “I started dating Jackson in 2009. At the time, my mum sold beer under the bridge at Costain and I always assisted her. I couldn’t attend school because we had no money and my father was dead.
“I met Jackson in my mother’s beer parlour. He occasionally came to buy beer there and was very nice to me. He then invited me to Ilaje Street in Oyingbo, where he lived, and offered me a nice accommodation.
“I didn’t tell my mother when I left with Jackson for Ilaje. We were poor and I wanted a better life. He gave me a nice room and took care of me. I knew he built houses and sold land to people. After a while, his wife started to threaten me. I didn’t even know he was married and lived with his family at Ilaje. This woman kept sending messages to me to leave her husband. After sometime, my neighbours advised me to end my relationship with Jackson for my own safety.”
Truly scared for her life, Job ended her relationship with Jackson, who was not pleased with her decision. The enraged lover took back the accommodation he had provided for Job and threw her out. A few weeks after her relationship with Jackson ended, Job began another relationship with a young man named Joshua. The latter lived within the same community.
Job moved in with Joshua. Jackson learnt that she was dating someone else and he did not take kindly to the news.
“One day, Joshua and I went to attend a naming ceremony in the area. While we were there, Jackson walked in and started a fight with Joshua. He tore Joshua’s clothes. It was the intervention of the other guests that eventually ended the fight. Joshua and I left the party immediately. Instead of going back to Joshua’s house, we went to his friend’s house to spend the night,” Job recalls.
Unknown to the lovers, Jackson allegedly went in search of Joshua in his mother’s home in company with five members of the Oodua Peoples Congress. Although Jackson did not tell her why he had visited, Joshua’s mother told him that her son was not at home and she had no idea where he was. Undeterred, he left for the child naming ceremony, which was still in full swing and had some of Joshua’s friends in attendance.
Jackson started another fight, this time with Joshua’s friends and with the active support of the members of the OPC.
Job says, “While we were in the residence of his friend, Joshua got a phone call. He was informed that Jackson had started a fight with some of his friends in his absence and the OPC men he brought were shooting indiscriminately, and that some of the neighbours had called the police.
“Unfortunately, the policemen began to shoot as soon as they arrived at the scene. As a result, one of the OPC men was killed and everyone was blaming me as the cause of the death.
“I was so scared after the call that I fled to Badagry to stay with some members of my family there. I had stayed a week before I got another call from a friend that I should return to Ilaje, that nobody was looking for me. Although I left Badagry, I didn’t go back to Ilaje. I went to Surulere and stayed with a friend. I tried Joshua’s phone number without success and eventually called his sister Angela to ask after him.
“It was after Angela gave Joshua my phone number that he called me. My friend would not let Joshua spend the night. So, we had to leave for Orile where we stayed with one of his friends.”
The next morning after an urgent phone call that claimed Joshua’s mother’s home at Ilaje was on fire, the couple hurriedly left for Ilaje. Unfortunately for Job, the commercial motorcycle that she boarded was operated by an errand boy of a well known hoodlum in Ilaje community. Instead of taking her to her lover’s home, the okada operator took her straight to the hoodlum’s house, where she was handed over to the Iponri Police Division.
“I spent a week at the Iponri Police Station before I was taken to the State Criminal Investigation Department at Panti. I spent one month and three weeks there before I was taken to court. I told the Investigating Police Officer that I was 13, but the man wrote 18 years as my age. Even when I was arraigned at the Yaba Magistrate’s Court, the IPO shouted at me in court and asked me if I wasn’t 18 years old. I didn’t give any reply because I was scared. After that, I was brought to the Kirikiri Prison.”
Investigations showed that Job was arraigned for murder at the Yaba Magistrate’s Court IV on May 11, 2009 alongside other adults.
When contacted by our correspondent, human rights activist and founder of the Stephen and Solomon Foundation, a non-governmental organisation which offers free legal services for the indigent, Aigbonosimuan Giwa-Amu said, “We will take up Job’s case. Remanding a minor in an adult prison facility shows a lack of understanding of the law, either by the police or the prosecuting authority. There is nothing wrong with a magistrate, who reasonably suspects the age of a defendant on a charge sheet, asking the defendant her true age. You watch the demeanour of the defendant as you ask to determine the truth.
“However, more often than not, some magistrates see their duties at arraignments as mere formalities or just administrative. Where the facts of the case file shows that no offences have been disclosed, there is nothing more honourable than declaring that the defendant has no case to answer.
“Our prisons have been turned to dumpsites for frivolous offences by the police and the Directorate for Public Prosecution, which should be able, under two weeks, to produce their legal advice. Criminal prosecution should not be an act of persecution; it should be construed as the act of bringing a defendant to justice.”