Mr.Jacob Ajomale, a gospel artiste tells us how he was tortured by American immigration officers and how a chip was inserted in his body
You studied Economics, why music then?
Music for me is an inborn thing, it runs in the family. My late dad was a renown organist and accordionist coordinating the choir and that’s where I picked it up.
Why didn’t you study music then?
I didn’t because I believed it was just a natural thing for me. The same question was asked by the Papa Awolowo when I was playing for him at the Ogun State University in March 1983. He was asking the vice chancellor whether I studied music. It’s just a natural thing.
Which means that you didn’t use the certificate to work?
Well, I only did when I was working as a financial analyst. I worked with the Union Bank while I was doing my youth service. I won the best corps member award and got an automatic employment after my service and started a programme at the Bendel State Television Station. Then I was invited back to Lagos where I worked as an analyst reporting and coordinating marketing activities for Kodak International. That was all I did with the certificate.
Oke Mimo, an album you and others did as choir of Ayo Ni o Movement, was a chartbuster, I expected you to be swimming in millions.
We sold millions but we did it for the church and for the glory of God. I never made a dime on my own; it was a way of rendering your talent for God and that is what we believe in Nigeria. But it is different in America. I sang the song and we all marketed it but I never made a dime even till present.
On your own, can you mention about one or two hit albums you made?
The first one was a tribute to Papa Awolowo. After getting such a complement from him while I was serving in Benin and when I heard that he had passed on, I came to see his family and went into the studio to record an album in his memory. I did Comforter which was a breakthrough album and it was played everywhere. I got an invitation to come to the United States of America. In the US, I did two, Always by my Side and Great Testimony and they did very well in the market.
Did you enter America with valid papers?
I entered the US with a valid passport and a valid visa. I was invited by a church, Mountain of Peace C and S Church, Washington, for a musical workshop and it lasted for three months. Six of us went on the trip and after the workshop, the visa expired after six months and I didn’t know anything about the immigration stuff in America. I didn’t know I would need social security and other papers. I lost my status and that was the beginning of my problem in America.
But it was reported that you entered the US with forged papers.
No, that is not true. I entered America first with valid papers. I was given the visa on March 13 and I left Nigeria on April 11 and got to America on April 12 1997. I want them to check the record; I got there legally with a visiting visa but it got expired after six months. The church promised to help; they got an immigration lawyer for me but the filing wasn’t approved and I ran out of status. I borrowed money to go to America then and I had to work to be able to pay back. I stayed back until I got a job; I got the social security but I didn’t have green card. Throughout my stay in America, I was working with my social security number. I never used any other person’s or any other thing except the time I came to Nigeria in 2001 and I am not going to lie about that. I got a call from home that my dad was sick and I didn’t know how to get to Nigeria and I am the first son, remember I told you that I had lost my status since. A brother that I brought in to live with me in my first house in America suggested that I could use his information to travel home which I did successfully without any problem. Everything was done perfectly, I submitted my valid passport and the immigration people saw everything. I got back to America without any problem.
But what you did was not legal.
Yes, it was not legal and that was the mistake of my life. That mistake has turned into a ministry now because I keep telling people, if for any reason you have to travel, make sure your stay is as directed by your visa. I paid for that mistake because it was the same brother that reported me to the authorities when I got my own green card. The second time I came to Nigeria, I came with my own green card. Even that time that I used his passport, I was not arrested and he was the same person that took me to the airport and called my mum that I was safely back. My dad did not die until seven years after and by that time, I already had my green card. Before I got back to America, this guy had reported me to the immigration. His name is Emmanuel Adetokunbo Adegoke. When people asked him why he did that, he said he didn’t know what pushed him and that he never knew the implication. This is somebody I brought to my house and he lived with me for five years. I supported him to go to the best university and when he finished, he got a good job and after he left, he thought that’s how he could pay me back. Immigration didn’t know anything about what we did; it was not that they were that smart but it was Tokunbo that reported me. I don’t know what he told them but they were waiting for me to return and they promptly arrested me even when I had travelled with valid papers. Since I was travelling with valid documents, the best they could have done was to charge me to court, not arrest me. They asked me to tell them what I knew of Emmanuel Adegoke passport but I insisted on speaking with my lawyer first. I wasn’t going to lie but I needed legal advice.
So what then happened?
They kept me in a cold room for nine hours. I got to America about 1pm on February 5, 2009 and until 11pm, they didn’t allow me to come out of the extremely cold room. Let them check their record very well. I could have died. I was forced to tell them that I used Emmanuel Adegoke’s passport and from there, I was put in detention for about four months until I saw a judge. The judge checked and said I had a very clean record and that because of that she said she was going to give me the minimum sentence, six months and I had spent four months already. After the two months, I was released and that was supposed to be the end of the case. On August 15, 2009, a week after I was released, I received a call to pick up my green card and passport at the ICE BWI Airport office on August 19, 2009, but surprisingly I was rearrested by the same Officer Derrick who said they made a mistake to have released me. I asked questions why I was arrested and they told me I would have to see the judge again in three days. They locked me up for months. While in detention at Worcester Detention Centre, Snow Hill, Maryland, an ICE Officer, William Malone, told me I could be released but it was going to cost me money. I told my lawyer about it who reported to Senior ICE Officers. Malone was fired because it was discovered that he asked me for bribe. We knew that he was a drug dealer and an addict. I suspect that the authorities believed that we knew too much about Malone and decided to torture me in particular.
Investigation was carried out during which Officer Michelle Rawlings interrogated me and promised to get back to me, which she never did. Afterwards I became the target for the officers. I was hospitalised on July 12, 2010, at Atlantic Hospital for sinusitis and body weakness but was discharged abruptly without adequate treatment. I was maltreated by three officers, who flung me to an empty steel bed and I put in a grievance report concerning the issue. In August 2010 I was moved to Fredrick Detention Centre, Fredrick, Maryland, and same aggression was repeated against my person. I was feeling vibration on my bed and reported to the authority but no action was taken.
“On December 3 I was invited by the Chaplain Pastor John for Bible study with two other detainees. And coming back from the Chaplain’s office I felt strange movement in my umbilical cord and showed it to an inmate, Mr. Al. We quickly approached the officers on duty to take me to the medical unit but instead I was crushed to the floor by eight white officers and my pants was opened and a chip, an electric devise used to invade a person’s privacy and gather information about him and for the purpose of causing harm to his person, was put in my anus. I screamed but no one could help me. I was taken to another detention home where I was asked to remove all my clothes and speak to a speaker which I later learnt is voice sensor and as I am talking to you now, they are hearing me in America. Anywhere I go in the world, through the chip in my body and speaking to the voice sensor, they are monitoring me back there in America. What they inserted in me is called electronic harassment and once it is in your body, anywhere you go in the world, you are being monitored.
Why would they do that?
America would not want a scandal. They know that we know too much about what goes on in the jail houses, particularly about Officer Malone and they don’t want it out. They believe that once they mess up with my brain, I would be rendered useless but I give God the glory, I am okay. They inserted the chip on December 3 2010 and since then, I’ve been feeling a lot of strange movements in my body. I was arranged to see the psychologist, Ms Jessica, who interviewed me and advised that I should be sent back to the unit having seen nothing psychologically wrong with me, but ICE refused. Also I was arranged to see the psychiatrist, Dr Brian Simms, who said the same thing but I was still isolated. They even lied that I was planning to kill myself and put me under suicide watch.
After all this, I made up my mind to drop the case and go back to my country. They called the embassy and they discussed at length because everyone at the embassy knew me because I used to play for them. When I was given the phone, I opened up to them and pleaded that the officers should be compelled to remove the chip they inserted on me. One of them said, ‘nobody inserted anything on Jacob’s body, we don’t have such a thing in America and it is even illegal to do that.’ About two days after, they asked me dress up and I thought they were taking me to Nigeria, they flew me to California, away from my people and every contact that I had. I asked why I was in California, a six-hour journey from Washington but I was lucky I spoke to about two black people who I believed spoke about me to some sources. They put me in the midst of retarded people and mentally challenged people. I refused all medications to stay alive and in my senses. I was forced to take about four shots but all I asked for was water in which I prayed and drank so that all weapon fashioned against me would not prosper. They moved me to a private treatment facility; still I refused to cooperate and frustrated them even though they broke my back bone and I told the doctor to respect the laws of America.
So, how did you get out?
I asked for voluntary deportation and departure and I expected them to leave me alone without accompanying me to Nigeria. On February 24, 2011, I was told to pack and prepare to go back to Nigeria and I was happy. When we got to the airport in California with two officers that were with me and were about to board the plane, instead of passing through the scanner, they bypassed it but I created a scene. They knew that the scanner would expose the chip inside my body but I shouted and demanded to go through the scanner. They felt embarrassed and agreed to go through the scanner; meanwhile, they had spoken with the officer in charge to deactivate the machine as soon as we were to be screened. I protested and asked them why they did that. At the point of entry the plane, I sighted our board passes and discovered that they wrote ‘Sullivan brain’ against my own. I later learnt that it means that I should be treated on landing as a mentally deranged person. But instead of flying straight to Nigeria, we flew through Ghana. And when we landed in Ghana, our board passes were missing and we flew without any paper to Lagos when they handed me over to immigration. I made report that the two officers should be interrogated and be asked to remove what they put in my system but they were left to go.
So after they brought you, what happened?
There was nothing because I was not a criminal. As I am talking to you, my passport and green card are still with them in America. They have no right to do that. I wrote a letter to the Foreign Affairs and they said they are investigating. I have reported to the House of Representatives through the Diaspora Committee headed by Abike Dabriri but I suspect they have been intimidated. I have heard a lot of good things about Dabiri but I am sorry, this time around, I am disappointed. Abike said they were going to summon the US ambassador, she went there on her own and I don’t know what they discussed. I had thought they would summon the American envoy to explain why I was treated the way I was treated. She called me one day and said she didn’t want to get involved and that I could do whatever I wanted to do. I didn’t expect that from someone that is supposed to represent me.
So what is happening to your health now?
The chip is still in my system and I feel torture daily. I have 24/7 headache and the only time I feel any relief is when a plane flies overhead or when I am under the shower. I have written a letter to President Obama to deal with the bad eggs among the immigrations. As I am speaking with you, I am under torture.
Is it possible to remove the chip?
It is possible medically but we don’t have the technology in Nigeria. Many doctors don’t even know anything about it, talk less of removing it.
What of your family?
They are still in America. All my five properties have gone; I built two and bought three. I have lost all my houses, my family have moved out of my property. I was gainfully employed when I was rearrested. I was making $25 per hour; I was a licensed realtor and at the same time I was working with a big hospital in Baltimore. America is a land of opportunity but the people involved in this are the people destroying American society.