Why Josephine, Why?
By Shola Adebowale
This story you are about to read could appropriately be tagged as a premeditated miscarriage of justice due largely to the not so amiable stereotype and racial profiling against Nigerians.
Josephine Iyamu, worked and lived in both London and Nigeria. She is having a dual nationality, as a Nigerian and a British citizen. She was not born in Britain but only schooled and got her certificates there , as a nurse and mid wife and has never been charged with any misconduct in her place of work nor within her communities either in Britain or Nigeria.
Then in 2014,she was approached to contest in the year’s election to represent her Local Government Area, since she have been of great help to so many people and hence enjoyed profound popularity in that locality. Therefore, she inadvertently entered the murky water of active politics in Nigeria in 2014 and in between still working as a nurse in London. She contested for nomination into the House of Assembly and although she met the requirements, yet she never got the opportunity to serve.
This notwithstanding, she still remained a contractor to the Edo State government, and also continued to assist as many as she could in her native home land in Nigeria. It was during a certain political campaign, that she met two parents of these five women that would later put her in harm’s way.
All the five women lived in her Local Government Area of Edo state and they all knew one another. The parents of one of the women (Florence Oloitaire Amanya Joshua), are still alive in Benin city, although the daughter claimed in the court to paint a picture of helplessness, that her father, Joshua Amanya was dead. And the lawyer that would later be given to Josephine by the government was privy to this lie with audio-visual evidence, but refused to tender it in the court.
Meanwhile, until these five women, Florence Oloitaire Amanya Joshua , Sonia Franco (Abeyuwa Ifueko), Faith Amenze ,(AKA Faiti Kpiate Ochuku), Kate Funmilayo Roland Okosuwe, Arrina Isaac (AKA Taiye) ,came along , specifically asking for Josephine’s financial assistance , she has never engaged nor had any case to do with anything human trafficking as the court later claimed against her and touted and floated like hot balloons by the British media with such an unprecedented fiery, furious media frenzy, with all sorts of unsubstantiated characterizations, just to appeal to the intended mob lynching. What she has been known for, was in helping members of her constituents, most especially indigent Edo women, by giving them financial loans with which to establish or expand their trades without asking for any interest, just to encourage such women with such a sensitive start up business loans and also by helping many families to settle their bills, like school fees of their kids. She found pleasure in doing these, as her pet projects in her constituency, perhaps to boost her political career and profile.
The Genesis of her ordeal was that these five women, whose parents, like Florence Amanya’s father, Joshua Amanya,(a politician and member of the All Progressives Congress (APC)), and Kate Okosuwe’s mother, approached Josephine for assistance, used the fund she provided to them to travel to Europe for greener pastures, unbeknown to her. And when they got to Europe; they were engaged in all sorts of ‘hustling’, as it is tagged in Nigeria’s local parlance, including prostitutions, which some of them had been doing before they left Nigeria. It was while they were going from one brothel to another that the local police arrested one of them, who gave out the identities of the remaining four. They were all detained and in their statements claimed that, they were engaged in such a demeaning and illegal act because they were extremely desperate to raise money to settle Josephine for what they owned her. According to one of them, Kate Funmilayo Roland Okosuwe, she claimed that it was a Ghanaian woman that advised them on how to handle the police issue, most especially when they discovered that the situation can be exploited to get an asylum or resident status in Germany. And they therefore exploited this to the fullest with the assistance of the British government and the Nigeria Police Force.
And so, on the 24th of August, 2017, as Josephine got to London from Nigeria with her family, she was accosted by the British police, issued a caution, handcuffed and taken to a police station near the Heathrow Airport. There, she would spend the next two nights under police custody. Suddenly, her life took such a viciously sad and sordid turn, shattered and shackled in a cold solitary confinement. She was not allowed to speak to any family or friends until after 24 hours. She would later be given a solicitor by the police; it was the solicitor that told her to just say “No comment”. And when she asked why, the solicitor told her to wait until they all know what they have on her. From that point, they would not allow her to change the solicitor given to her and she did applied 7 times, but the court refused to oblige her request. Although she was resident in London, she was tried in Birmingham Crown Court, far from the appropriate jurisdiction where she lived and worked.
The solicitor that the police gave to her was the one that hired the Barrister that would defend her in court. But funny enough, the solicitor would not for once appear in court for any legal representation on her behalf, throughout the 10 weeks trials. Neither the solicitor nor the Barrister did even bother to meet or liaise with any member of her families. She complained, but was not listened to. She even asked in court why she was being prosecuted in the U.K for an alleged offence that was committed in Nigeria, but was told that Nigeria is a corrupt country and that also she is a British national as well.
Apart from this, she was not allowed to call any witnesses from Nigeria and also the parents of these women, who approached Josephine for assistance in the first place, were not called to give any statement, either to corroborate or debunk her claims that she was only trying to help them, after those same parents pleaded for her assistance. Her family house in Nigeria was broken into by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), under the pretense that they were looking for ‘girls’ but no such girls were found.
Statements from those working at the family house, exonerating her to contradict the statements of those arrested women in Germany were taken, but were never tendered before the jury, since it would help her case positively, as not being what the five women claimed against her, which was that she was harboring several number of girls in that apartment . At the beginning of her trial, the solicitor submitted a defense statement, which was unsigned by Josephine. The solicitor also sent the same to the police, while the U.K police sent it to Germany and the German police opened it and called all the women (witnesses) to comment on them. There were no voice analyses conducted to ascertain, if the voices of these women were the ones on the phone intercepts, as they were meant to do, to confirm if the voices were truly their voices as claimed by the women.
And as pointed out earlier, when it was obvious that the lawyer was not handling her case, with all the expected competency, compassion, fairness and finesse expected of such a rare case in British jurisprudence, Josephine raised objections, but she was not allowed to change her lawyer with another government lawyer that could competently represent her. In all her bids as regards this, the Birmingham Crown court vehemently refused her prayers, but instead asked her to procure a private lawyer which was obviously by all intents and purposes beyond her capacity to do so. She was in prison and none of her family could reach her, communication with her was restricted and minimized. Hence, she was powerless and vulnerable to the whim and caprices of those detaining her and using her as a Guinea pig.
In fact, the Prosecutor did not disclose most of the evidences that would have helped Josephine in her case, especially a juju priest, mentioned by the five women and whose statement was acquired by the Prosecutor through the police in Nigeria, in which he claimed that he has never met Josephine. They also refused to disclose to the court, the gruesome murder of her codefendant, Happy Jolly Osagie. Willy-nilly, probably or perhaps, vital witnesses’ statement by Josephine’s workers that were arrested in her family home in Nigeria, were also kept from the attention of the court as well. All these vital and deliberate omissions of information were only disclosed to her, after she had been sentenced.
And now the tip of the whole charade, she is about to be taken to court again.
The British has a law known as POCA, a law on proceeds of crime, which states inter alia that ‘…any unexplained fund or properties at that time of the crime and also 6 years before the crime will be classified as benefit in crime’, with this, the moves of the British government is to strip Josephine off, all her assets or properties in the UK, not withstanding that the source of such properties was known to the government ,because as a nurse and mid wife, she has been on an average of £26,000 as salary, since she started working in 1999 and could therefore afford such a modest property and in fact the property in question was bought from the same government by mortgages .
From the onset, it has been observed that the National Crime Agency (NCA, a branch of the British police), that arrested Josephine, has been more interested in her family properties in Nigeria and those in London that belong to her and her husband, because the Agency has been inundated with unfounded hasty generalization that she was a politician and hence very wealthy. So, instead of pushing for detailed evidences or witnesses, from either the parents or families of those five women to ascertain unambiguously as required by the rules of law, social justice and commonsense, the Agency was more interested in employing the NAPTIP in Nigeria, to profile and value her family assets in Nigeria. In other words, the Agency was more interested in getting conviction at all means whatsoever; because of the bonuses it would share from any properties that would be confiscated from her.
In retrospect, Josephine and her husband lived in a Council flat for years and applied to buy the Council flat under the “Right to Buy Scheme”, which was granted to them .And this flat was bought with 100 percent mortgages. Everything from the start to the end was legal. And all the documents have been provided to the CPS, (Crown Prosecution Service). And these, either the legal documents and procedures can been verified, to be legitimate and that no illegal money was found to have been used to purchase the preceding property [i.e. the council house she was earlier staying] and how the money realized from the sales of it, was used to purchase the apartment the government is now trying to seize from her. Now the CPS in Birmingham have been taking her to court every time and trying to exploit her helplessness to take such from her.
The British government is trying to do this by relying on an oral submission of Sonia Franco (Abieyuwa Jennifer Ifueko), one of the five women, during the court proceedings claimed inter alia, that she has been paying money to Josephine, but records and her statements showed that she was pregnant and gave birth during the period in question. Till date, neither the police nor the court, could lay its hands on any concrete evidence that Josephine was ever given such amount of money either to her directly or to her father, as the woman claimed in court and written on a piece of paper (see the attached), which was incredulously found admissible as evidence of payment by the same court.
In other words, there was no CCTV evidence in Germany,(from where Sonia claimed the money was paid from), nor any receipt or bank teller of such payment is available, that she ever sent such money to Josephine and till date there has been no evidence that such money was received from Sonia. Such vital details were also not established by the prosecutor, beyond Sonia’s oral claim that she paid money to Josephine. Another of the witnesses, Arrina Isaac who also gave birth to a child within Agen in Germany and living with her husband in the same, also claimed in the same fashion, that she has been paying money to Josephine. Similar to Sonia’s claims, there was no concrete evidence from Arrina of ever making such payments to Josephine and this was not established during trial as well.
All together between 4 of the women, the money was calculated by the CPS to be £28,603.44, without any concrete or substantive evidence to substantiate such bogus claims of payments.
There have been discrepancies and series of manipulations, with government officials playing roles as great a rogue as any bullying gangsters. For instance, her family house in Nigeria was illegally broken into and displayed on the national televisions and thereby causing series of embarrassments and the family is now unable to stay in the property for fears of being attacked or killed .Her name is not even on any of the properties and papers that were submitted to the CPS in the U.K. And they have been adamant and not willing to proceed legally, but rather using all sorts of under hand tactics to exploit her helplessness.
For emphasis, she was unable to get a lawyer during her trial, as the court said that if she refused to cooperate with the lawyer that was given to her by the police, she should go and hire a private lawyer, knowing full well that she won’t be able to shoulder such responsibility, while she was still in prison custody with no means and access to fund with which she would be able to secure the services of a private lawyer.
Josephine would like to appeal to the Human Rights community and good-spirited Nigerians to please come to her assistance by taking a look at the POCA proceeding and not to allow those who already had her shackled, and just like they have incarcerated her without any strong or substantial evidence against her, also be permitted to take over her properties and throw her families who are presently residing therein on to the streets of London. The source of the property in question is as evident as the mid day sun to be from her many years of sweats and toils as a successful nurse and mid wife.
But so far, the prosecutions against Josephine in the U.K have not been able to prove that she benefitted from the alleged crime. It is therefore, very obvious that they are not following the proceeds of Crime Act 2002. But only trying to exploit her because they feel they can do so, due largely to her helplessness and the sordid racial profiling that always regards every Nigerian as a common criminal. And this could clearly be noticed from the incoherence in the statements of the said five women during the court proceedings. For instance, part of the claims of the five women in their statements was that they approached Josephine for help to travel to Europe, principally for prostitution as they were practicing then in Nigeria. And in the same breath claimed that they were being enslaved by Josephine .The most objective question could have been why would the one that assisted them with fund be tagged by them and their handlers as a ‘slave mistress’ and be sentenced and convicted as such under a novel, albeit strange Modern Slavery Act, and not those involved in trafficking them illegally to Europe.
We must not forget that these women, are all adults and willingly agreed with their parents, to travel to Europe for economic gains, like millions of Nigerians do all these years .These are the same women that were living free on their own, going from one odd jobs to the other, and moving from one brothels to another and sending money to their families back home in Nigeria and the proceeds from their ‘hustling’ were being used by them and their families and not by Josephine, funny enough she is the one now being held accountable, when they had problems with the police.
One of them even started a big investment in Nigeria and has built a befitting house for her mother, just within one year of staying in Europe, while three others had children with their fiancés within a year in Germany. Albeit, these were cleverly hidden from the jury, just to nail Josephine by all reasonable and unreasonable means, as a grotesque psychopathic ‘slave mistress’.
In conclusion, the trial against Josephine was an absolute travesty of justice, a bizarre mockery of what the justice system is known for in the modern era and devoid of the niceties that are the hall marks of the British legal system and society. The trial was grossly mismanaged and very obvious to all, without any iota of pretense about it that, the prosecutor and government were in such inordinate haste to get a conviction and make Josephine a stray Christmas scapegoat. And the fear is this, if there is no concerted effort by all well meaning, fair and just citizenries who believed in shared humanity and social justice, all that Josephine legally worked for all her adult years would as well be taken away from her.
Shola Adebowale writes from
Port Harcourt, Nigeria. He can be reached on email firstname.lastname@example.org
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