Professor Richard Solomon Musa Tarfa, co-founder of orphanages for vulnerable children in Kano and Kaduna states, has been convicted by a High Court in Nigeria’s Kano State of forging a certificate of registration from the Kano state Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development.
During the hearing on 3 March, the professor was found guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison. He was also ordered to pay a fine of N50,000 (approximately GBP £90) or face an additional year in prison, and was immediately transported to jail.
The professor was found guilty despite having provided a witness from his bank and a bank statement showing a payment to a director in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs for the certificate. Moreover, the Ministry itself did not dispute the authenticity of the certificate, or of the signature on it, but asserted that a certificate cannot be issued on the same day it is applied for, as had reportedly occurred in this case. In making his ruling, the judge maintained that as an educated person Professor Tarfa should have known of this and was therefore guilty, adding that the employee who signed the certificate ought to be investigated.
Professor Tarfa was initially arrested on 25 December 2019 when armed police officers, accompanied by agents of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), invaded the orphanage in Kano without a search warrant and with journalists in attendance. After being obliged to accompany officers on a similar raid on the Du Merci orphanage in Kaduna state on 31 December, he was subsequently held in pre-trial detention until 10 December 2020, when he was released on bail.
On 24 June 2021 he was acquitted of abducting 19 children from their legal guardians and confining them in an unregistered orphanage. However, the forgery charge on which he was just convicted was submitted during this trial by the lawyer for the prosecution a day before resting his case. The forgery trial opened on 27 July 2021, but has been subject to several adjournments.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “The conviction and sentencing of Professor Tarfa is a grave miscarriage of justice. The astonishingly flawed reasoning displayed by the presiding judge in passing this sentence is emblematic of the judicial persecution the professor has experienced since 2002. We call for the overturning of this conviction, which compounds the suffering of this innocent man, and renew our call to the Kano state authorities to expedite the return of all of the Du Merci children, given the professor’s earlier acquittal. Reparations must also be made for the undeniable trauma this family has been made to endure for over two years.”