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Updated Apr 3, 2020

Clinton Kanu was once a successful property investor and legal consultant for Nigerian government officials. He lost everything after he was accused of a murder that took place 100 kilometers away from where he was at the moment of the crime. He now spends his days in a tiny flat and relies on his sister at times for food and company.

Kanu is one of many Nigerians who have been wrongly maligned by the country’s corrupt legal system, and one of millions of Nigerians who remain unemployed in a country where nepotism is a greater guarantor of employment than education. The fifty-six-year-old grew up in the oil-rich region of Port Harcourt, to an impoverished but educated father. Both of Kanu’s parents instilled in him respect for academic success. As a young man, he developed a love of reading and devoured crime novels, which inspired him to pursue a legal degree.

His years in prison took a heavy toll on his physical and mental health. He attempted suicide on three occasions. When the third attempt failed after an intervention from other inmates, Kanu took it as a sign that “God wanted me alive”. After persuading the African College of Christian Education and Seminary to run classes in the prison, Kanu and fifty other inmates enrolled in theology classes.

By 2014, he had earned two doctorates in Christian missions ministry and counselling, and was later ordained as a non-denominational pastor. In April 2019, the Nigerian Supreme Court heard his appeal. It found there was no evidence against him and acquitted him. But by that time Kanu had sold off everything he’d owned to pay for his appeal.

He has since committed himself to advocating for prison reform. Yet many of his old contacts have moved on, making it nearly impossible to sit down face to face with any authority that would hear him out. After twenty-seven years in prison, with no money, connections or a job, he does not know where to start.



Why It Matters

This Al Jazeera profile sheds light on the corruption that is rife in Nigeria’s prison system. Extortion, torture, and politically motivated imprisonments are just a few of the many shortcomings plaguing the criminal justice system in Africa’s most populous country, which also has the highest death-row population in sub-Saharan Africa. Clinton Kanu’s story also highlights the potential for religious institutions to assist in rehabilitation in prisons by offering vocational training and counselling services.

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