September 10, 2010
Released Africans speak out

For Benjamin Fife Danquah and Emmanuel Johnson Chijioke, the reading on their hope meters was at zero. They had lost all hope of ever being released from Her Majesty’s Prison.{{more}} However, five years later, and thanks to attorney Jomo Thomas, the men are out.

The men got their first taste of freedom on September 1, 2010, when Danquah, a Ghanian, and Chijioke, of Liberia, were released into the custody of the local Red Cross as a result of a Habeus Corpus motion filed on February 7, 2010, in the High Court by Thomas.

In their first interview after being released, Danquah said he is now able to see and enjoy the scenery of St Vincent, which was taken away from him five years ago. “I feel real good you know…I feel better now because when I am eating, because of the joy, I am already full,” Danquah said with a smile.

Danquah told reporters he came here in 2005 and was given two weeks to stay in the country. He said he only spent four days here, then travelled to Tortola, but was sent back to St Vincent.

When he came back to St Vincent, Danquah said he was taken into custody and held at Her Majesty’s Prison. “I did no crime and they put me in jail without a charge… Jail is a hard place, you know,” stated Danquah. Speaking of his time in prison, Danquah said he had to sleep on bunk beds which were infested with bugs and cockroaches.

“…We sleep on bunks with no mattress, no pillow…you don’t even have nobody to come and check you. I suffer a lot in prison,” Danquah said.

Danquah said it used to hurt when other prisoners would poke fun at him knowing that there wasn’t a definite date when or if he would be released.

“…Some people with murder charge and manslaughter come and meet me in jail, left jail and come back and meet me in jail. I lost all hope, but thanks to Jomo Thomas, he find the key and open the prison gate for me,” he chuckled.

Before coming to these shores, Danquah made a living as a mechanic and said he wanted to travel the world. He noted that he learnt about St Vincent through a friend from Trinidad.

Describing Thomas as “powerful and wonderful”, Danquah said he is going to tell everyone in his hometown about Thomas and ask them to pray for him. “I don’t know how I can repay such a debt…I know the Almighty will guide and protect him. If it wasn’t for Thomas, I would end up doing lifetime,” Danquah added as he shook Thomas’ hand.

Chijioke’s tale is not much different from that of Danquah’s. Arriving here in 2001, Chijioke’s problems began a year later, after he was taken up by the Immigration Department and taken to the Central Police Station, where he was subsequently released.

Chijioke, who is married to a Vincentian and has a child with her, said he and his wife were operating a shop in Arnos Vale when he was once again taken up by Immigration. “They told me I have to buy a ticket and leave St Vincent, so me and my wife went to Grenada for a while,” Chijioke said.

In 2004, he was once again picked up by Immigration authorities, whom he said informed him that although he was married to a Vincentian, he was not yet a citizen. He spent eight days at Central Police Station before being taken to court and then jail.

Chijioke said lawyer Arthur Williams, who he claims he paid $3,000, was trying to help him organize his papers. After three years in prison, Chijioke said Williams visited him and said he had been denied a stay in St Vincent and there was nothing else he (Williams) could do. “I told him thank you very much and I lost all hope because all the other lawyers told me that there is nothing they could do,” he noted.

After being introduced to Thomas and being told that he was going to get out prison, Chijioke said he thought it was a joke. “I didn’t believe him (Thomas) …I thought it was a joke because all the other lawyers I called didn’t do anything,” stated Chijioke.

“I don’t really know how to say thanks to him, but I just leave everything for God and hope he will reward him …I thank you so much,” Chijioke said as he shook his lawyer’s hands.

The men have been provided with a house by the government. They have been placed on a 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. curfew and are expected to report to the Central Police Station every day for the next three months until they have supplied all relevant information to the authorities that would assist in sending them back to their homelands. (KW)