Joseph Aghado & wife
Sept 16, 2013 – Nigerian Man Attempts Suicide Twice In Norway Prison: How Norwegian Police Tortured An Innocent Man
This is a pathetic story of an innocent Nigerian man who went through hell in the hand of Norwegian Police officials.
On a recent Monday, the morning sky dawdled on its promises – unable to settle on showers or sunlight – as we took our seats under a tree in front of his cousin’s house in Gowon Estate, Lagos. Expectedly, Kingsley Joseph Aghado took in a deep, long breath, as he readied himself to detail his horrific experiences in a foreign land. When Aghado met with us, he did not look like a man who had twice attempted suicide. But beneath his cool exterior were years of bitter experience which has now left him with permanent scar, literarily.
Living the Good Life
Several years back Aghado became an immigrant, like many young people seeking a new lease of life. Soon, he found his way to Sweden and settled in for the greener pastures. “I worked and schooled in Sweden,” Aghado said. “I made sure all my documents were valid and original, so I would not have any reason to be running from the authorities over there.”
During his stay in Sweden, Agahado married a Swedish policewoman named Heidi Moe, who further helped him to settle in properly and raised his family. “Life was normal. I regularly travelled from Sweden to Nigeria with my wife. I was going to school and also working to support myself. I was a good citizen and I did not have any criminal record whatsoever,” he said. However, things were about to change for Aghado and he had no idea that the family he had raised would be scattered like a pack of cards.
The Weekend Trip that Changed Everything
It was a weekend and Aghado decided to visit neighbouring Norway to see some friends. “Norway is just about two hours drive from Sweden, and since that country is a part of the Schengen community, my visa permitted me to visit Norway,” Aghado explained. “I had a lot of friends in Norway, so normally during weekends I usually go and visit them to relax myself.”
But while in Norway, his wife called him and informed him that Norwegian policemen specialising in criminal cases wanted to see them (He and his wife) in the next two weeks. “I was shocked when I heard that. Why would the police be looking for me? As far as I was concerned, I did not have any criminal records in Europe and even in Nigeria.
“Immediately, I told my wife that since I was in Norway we should go and hear what they wanted to say. Since a clear conscience fears no accusation, I told her to take the next flight from Sweden into Norway so we could clear any business they might have with us, and move on with our life,” he said.
Soon, his Swedish wife joined him in Norway and together they headed for the Norwegian Police station where they have been invited, but unknown to Aghado, he was stepping into hell.
“When we got there,” Aghado remembered, “they separated me and my wife for an interview. During my own interview, they asked me why and how I got into Europe. I explained everything and even went ahead to show them all my papers.”
According to Aghado the interview did not end that day. But as he prepared to leave, he was left flummoxed when the Police told him that he was going to spend the night in detention. “They did not tell me what I had done. They just told me that I had to stay till tomorrow so that they can finish the interview.”
Of course, tomorrow never came and Aghado went ahead to spend the next one year, and seven months behind Norwegian Prison bars without trial.
Inside the Norwegian Prison
Aghado told THISDAY that he suffered humiliation and had a near-death experience in the hands of Norwegian police. It was a dark period in his life. “I was moved from prison to prison. I was isolated. I was tied up. I cried day and night claiming that I was innocent of any crime, but nobody listened to me. They did not let me see anybody, not even my wife or my friends. I attempted suicide twice and it appeared that I was going crazy. The prison psychiatrists started treating me for mental illness. It was a very terrible experience,” he recounted.
Exploring Why He was Picked up
It was hard to fathom that Aghado was just picked up randomly by Norwegian police and subjected to all these inhuman treatments; there had to be a reason, no matter how stupid and implausible. S further question was posed in that direction, and Aghado confirmed the reporters’ convictions. “Of course they had their reasons. The thing was that I had a nephew called Ugo, who was in prison for a crime. During their investigations, they found my picture on his laptop and they concluded that I had to be an accessory to the crime my nephew was accused of committing.
“The problem was that they had no proof of this claim. They went further to say that somebody named Aghado transferred money from Norway, and that I was the only Aghado on the register. They even said I was the only Aghado in Nigeria. They said I was into drugs and money trafficking, but they had no proof of all these claims. They took my DNA countless times, while I was in prison. My papers were complete. They had no witnesses. They had nothing on me, but still, they kept me in prison.”
According to Aghado, it appeared that he was a victim of racial profiling or mistaken identity. “It is what they believed, when you are black and linked to a crime, you are a criminal. No questions.”
Discharged and Acquitted by Law
Aghado’s case file finally got to the court of law and in a trial that lasted for 21 days, he was declared ‘not gulity’ by a Norwegian court. “All the judges were unanimous about the judgment,” Aghado said brandishing a copy of the court judgment. “They had about three judges and they all agreed that I was not guilty. It was a big case that even attracted journalists in Norway. They were asking me a lot of questions about how I survived in prison and all that.”
His case number was 10-014472MED-OTIR/07. The District Attorney behind his ordeal according to him is called Mr. Geir Evanger, while Messrs Glen Johansen and Geir Loken were the investigative police officers.
Unfortunately, Aghado’s joy would be short-lived as he was soon told that he would be deported back to Nigeria despite the fact that he had become a free man following the court judgment that gave him a reprieve and that his papers were still valid. “What the prosecuting lawyer told me was that I had no more business in Norway, and that I should go back to my country. I could not believe it,” he said rubbing his temple like someone suddenly hit by a strange headache.
During his time in prison, Aghado’s wife had left him for another man despite the fact that no divorce proceedings had taken place. “This was a woman I was married to for more than two years,” Aghado lamented, “and everything was done legally. We were not divorced and I pleaded with the Norwegian authorities to let me go back to Sweden to go and see her, but they insisted that I must go back to Nigeria. The next morning I was bundled into a plane back to Nigeria.”
When asked about the real reasons why they quickly facilitated his deportation, Aghado was not ambiguous about his answer. “It was because they did not want me to sue them for the pain and injury they caused me. You see, if I was allowed to go back to Sweden, I would have sued the Norwegian government for detaining me illegally for 19 months and they would have paid millions of euro in compensation. So, the officials who prosecuted me, knowing that they could lose their jobs because of that, decided to silence me by sending me back to Nigeria.”
To be sure, Aghado claimed that while he was in Nigeria, he had tried to petition the Norwegian government, and the lawyer who prosecuted him had quickly sent him some money, an equivalent of about three million naira, so that the case could be closed. He questioned that motive. “Why would you pay a guilty man three million naira?”
A Sad experience at the Murtala Muhamed Airport
Tied up and covered in clothes to hide in his bondage, Aghado was put on a Nigerian bound plane together with two Norwegian Policemen. While on the plane, they warned him not to make any trouble at the Nigerian airport or that they could make his life miserable. Meanwhile, he had other plans for them. He wanted to prove his innocence. He wanted to gain the sympathy of Nigerians at the airport. He wanted to show the scars on his body and he wanted to attract the attention of those in authorities to his inhuman treatment by the Norwegians. He said: “In my mind, I knew that I wanted to put them into trouble. They could not treat me badly in their country and do the same for me in my own country.”
So the plane touched down in Lagos, and he was untied. The policemen led him into the arrival hall and before they could bat an eyelid, Aghado was shouting on top of his voice, crying out to Nigerian immigration officials. As expected, a crowd formed around him among the arriving passengers and immigration officials also came on the scene. Aghado pointed to the two Norwegian policemen and told the Nigerian immigration officials not to let them go, because they had dehumanised him.
But ostensibly, the Norwegian officials had prepared for such contingencies. They produced a court document showing that Aghado had just finished serving his prison term after being convicted for burglary and drug offences in a court in Norway. And not giving to Aghado’s persuasion, his constant cries and pleas, the Nigerian immigration officials handed him over to the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), while the Norwegian officials walked away freely.
“I felt betrayed by my own countrymen,” he said with tears.
The Conclusion of the Matter
His arrest and incarceration for 19 months; the loss of his livelihood and crashed marriage has impacted greatly on his look and stability at the moment. But much more Aghado is disappointed that after petitioning the National Human Rights Commission and House of Representative Committee on Diaspora about his ordeal in the hands of Norwegian police, nothing concrete has been done to investigate the matter and help him to get justice.
Aghado claimed that his petitions to the Offices of the Chairman of National Human Rights Commission; the Speaker of the House of Representatives; the Chairman House Committee on Diaspora and Senator Ifeanyi Okowa representing Delta North (where Aghado hails from) have not been responded to after four months since it was sent there.
He told THISDAY that the petitions were sent there on May 2, 2013 and they were delivered through EMS speed post with tracking no SP 431074327.
THISDAY sought a verification of Aghado’s claims in a text sent to the Chairman of National Human Rights Commission, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, but he was not available to respond to the text all day. He later sent a text stating that, “I have been on the road all day. I am just seeing your message. I will need to check with Commission Secretariat.”
Now, Aghado claimed that because of the fact that he had lost all but his life in Norway, it has been difficult to find his feet in Nigeria. He has lived off friends and relatives but hopes that the Norwegian authorities would compensate him for all the atrocities they committed against him.
He said: “Words fail me to describe some of the heinous challenges I faced due to my personal ambition to achieve a good life. I still cannot understand why I was included in this web of misery. I still don’t understand why even Sweden where I hold a valid national identity card with number: 19760415-6492 could not or was not allowed to intervene on my behalf. I still wonder why I was roped into the alleged crime in the first place. I still wonder why the Norwegian prosecutors were desperate to disgrace and jail me at all costs. Such that contrary to their standards, documents were forged; witnesses were manufactured all in a bid to indict me, yet they failed.”
Aghado consequently appealed to the House of Representatives, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Human Rights Commission and the Norwegian envoy in Nigeria to intervene on his behalf in getting the Norway authorities to restitute as is common in civilised societies. He appealed to them to compensate him for the dehumanising treatment and the short-circuiting of his life’s ambition through their own internal mechanisms. He demanded a letter of apology written to him and advertised widely, disclaiming the spurious allegations against him; he also wants his identity and person revalidated in Schengen countries since he has been blacklisted.
Not only that, he also wants a compensation equivalent to the alleged torture and detention he underwent in their hands which should be commensurate to the dislocation he has suffered which he claimed has affected his well-being.
And for his experience Aghado said, “Now, if you give me a free visa to Europe, I would not accept. I have a phobia for that place now. My experiences have taught me lessons I cannot forget in a lifetime.”