The Court of Appeal on Friday discharged and acquitted Prof Solomon Tarfa, who was imprisoned on charges of forgery by a Kano High Court.
Tarfa’s incarceration and vindication on appeal was the second time in 22 years Kano State Government had prosecuted him for running a Christian orphanage in the state.
Tarfa had similarly been charged and convicted of running a fake orphanage in 2000 by a mobile magistrate court. The conviction was subsequently overturned on appeal.
Almost 20 years later on Christmas Day in 2019, Kano State again arrested him and charged him for the same offence, contrary to the principle of double jeopardy.
According to the presiding justice of the Court of Appeal, Kano, Justice Mbaba, the evidence of a grown former orphan at DuMerci was helpful to the appeal.
He said: “I believe that was the evidence that formed the basis on which the charges of abduction and kidnaping against the appellant were dismissed, as the evidence of the prosecution, rather presented the appellant as a man on the role of honour and fame, instead of infamy, in my opinion.”
The judge concluded thus: “I set aside the conviction of the appellant, and hold that this case was very unfortunate, going by the evidence of PW1, I cannot understand why it was taken out, in the first place, against the appellant. Appellant is hereby discharged and acquitted of the said charge.”
According to international human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe who was part of a global advocacy effort for Prof Tarfa: “This was an outstanding verdict from the Court of Appeal. The court rightly noted that this was an honourable man conducting humanitarian deeds and this case should never have been brought against him as I stated previously.
“At a time when paid professors were on strike for better conditions, Prof Tarfa had committed his life to cater for unwanted babies. Rather than receive a national honour, he was imprisoned on fake charges.”
He said further: “I commend my learned colleague Sunny Akanni and his team for a successful outing and urge Kano State to release the Christian orphans they took and Islamized in 2019.”
Ogebe added: “That notwithstanding I want to be clear that the US failed by not designating Nigeria a country of particular concern (CPC) for religious persecution when Kano State’s actions against Prof Tarfa amongst others prove that terrorists are not Nigeria’s only problem.
“It’s unfortunate that Prof Tarfa missed the wedding of one of the orphans he raised during his time in prison. I hope Kano State will stop the persecution.”
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