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Chidinma, Kirikiri Beauty Pageant And The Rest Of Us

By Agba Jalingo

Charles Sobhraj, born 1944, is a Frenchman of Vietnamese and Indian origins, who spent much of his childhood moving back and forth between France and Indochina. He became a delinquent at an early age, engaging in petty crimes, and was sentenced to his first prison sting at age 18, for burglary. A manipulative psychopath, he met and endeared himself to a rich prison volunteer, who introduced him to high society after his release from him.

Sobhraj used that access to the rich to enrich himself in turn, via scams, and scouting the homes of his new upper-class friends and acquaintances for lucrative burglaries. Legal troubles eventually forced him to flee France with his girlfriend in 1970 to avoid arrest. The couple traveled through Eastern Europe with fake documents, robbing tourists along the way, before ending up in India.

There, Sobhraj ran a car theft and smuggling ring until 1973, when he was arrested for an attempted robbery of a jewelry store. I have managed to escape, however and fled to Afghanistan. There, Sobhraj and his girlfriend began preying on tourists along the “Hippie Trail” – an overland route between Europe and South Asia, popular with Hippies and Beatniks between the 1950s and 1970s.

His girlfriend eventually left him and returned to France. Sobhraj then engaged in a variety of criminal schemes, including one with his brother that backfired, and left his sibling serving an 18-year term in a Turkish prison. Thereafter, Sobhraj’s grew steadily darker, and he began piling up the bodies of murder victims all along the Hippie Trail. He is believed to have murdered at least 20 Western tourists, and the true body count is thought by many to be much, much, higher.

Chidinma Ojukwu

Like Chidinma Ojukwu, Sobhraj was finally undone in 1976, when he attempted to drug a group of French tourists in India. He miscalculated the dosage, however, and his victims of it became violently ill, but still conscious enough to realize what Sobhraj had tried to do. They managed to overpower and seize him, until police arrived. Thai authorities sought his extradition for a murder committed there – which likely would have resulted in a death sentence. Indian authorities decided to try him for crimes committed on Indian soil first, however. He was convicted of a variety of offenses and imprisoned but escaped in 1986 after drugging his prison guards. He was easily recaptured a month later, leading many to speculate that it was a deliberate attempt to get extra jail time tacked on to his sentence from him. With the extra jail time, he was not released until 1997, after the 20 years statute of limitations for his crimes in Thailand had passed. Thus, he could no longer be extradited to face a potential death penalty in Thailand.

While behind bars, Sobhraj used his cunning and charisma to keep himself in the public eye and maintain his celebrity status. While imprisoned in India, he charged a pretty penny for interviews with journalists, and an even prettier penny for selling his Indian movie rights. India had no “Son of Sam” laws, preventing criminals from profiting from the celebrity arising from their crimes, so Sobhraj presumably managed to keep those earnings.

After his release from prison in 1997, Sobhraj returned to Paris, where he enjoyed a celebrity lifestyle and reportedly sold his international movie rights for 15 million US dollars. His freedom from him did not last long. He traveled to Nepal in 2003, and when the authorities were alerted of his presence, he was arrested for a 1975 double murder. He was convicted the following year and handed a life sentence, and an aging Charles Sobhraj is still locked up in a Nepalese prison.

I am reasonably sure that Chidinma did not set out to become a celebrity. She just wanted to do her crimes de ella secretly and get enough money to reign like a queen in school. She couldn’t have imagined making headlines for all these wrong reasons and I can bet you that if she wasn’t in that beauty contest in Kirikiri, it wouldn’t make it to the news.

But here is the data. By the end of 2021, of the 70,056 inmates in the prisons, 50,822 are awaiting trial. That equates to roughly 73% of the total. While only 19,234 inmates have been convicted, accounting for 27% of the total. As a result, at least 7 out of 10 Nigerian prison inmates, including Chidinma, are serving time without being convicted. You could be one of those seven if you are raided by a police van tonight.

So all those people, who are still innocent in the eyes of the law should be locked up permanently in their cells and chained and not allowed to see happiness until the court says they are guilty or not?

For your information, the best fed and most pampered convicts in prison are those on death row. The worst of the world who have committed the most heinous crimes. They own the yard. In Afokang prison, while one fish was divided for 20 inmates, each death row inmate got two full fishes daily. Their ration is five times what other inmates get. I know you will ask why, but just reason it yourself.

Incase you don’t know, like some prison officials too don’t, prisoners have inviolable rights one of which is their right to happiness. The prison system is now meant to work assiduously to attain that objective of meeting the rights of those incarcerated, in line with global standards. That is why it is now called the corrections department.

Human rights are not only deserving for those who have lived a righteous life. Human rights are rights of all humans including those who are terrorizing our world. If we deny even terrorists their human rights when captured without posing a harm, we aren’t different from them.

Part of the components of correction is entertainment, sports and enterprise training. And the prison system is attempting to do that. There is no empirical evidence or data that the killing of criminals has reduced criminality, neither is there any that not killing them has. But there is a general belief that criminals must be isolated from the rest of us and only he who gives life should take it. That is why the world decided to change the name to correction.

So stop berating Chidinma the murder allegeder or the prison authorities for organizing a beauty contest where she won. Is she not beautiful? Who wants to win a beauty contest in prison? Who wants to be called “Miss Cell? Can she put that in her CV? She is not even a convict yet. She is still a lodger in prison. I detest what she did. I am convinced in my heart that she is guilty of killing her victim. I will be traumatized if I am left alone in a room with Chidinma even if she is fully nude, but I am not the court.

For now, what ever the prison authorities can do to keep her fit and proper for trial should be encouraged. That’s the right path to justice for Mr. Usifo Ataga.

The view expressed in this article are those of Citizen Agba Jalingo and not in any way related to THE PARADISE NEWS.

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