A Kenyan man recently awarded Ksh71 million for illegal detention in The Bahamas has narrated the harrowing experiences he went through.
Douglas Ngumi was incarcerated at Carmichael Road Detention Centre in Nassau for six-and-a-half-years. He had been arrested for various charges including drug possession and immigration violation.
But he was subjected to gross mistreatment, stripped naked, handcuffed under a table, and beaten with a PVC pipe. He recounts one of the instances of this beating: “This man wasn’t stopping. I don’t know what happened to him but he was just upset with something. He was just beating and beating and beating. Somebody had to tell him, ‘We gon’ call the police for you if you don’t stop beating him.’”
A few days after the beating, Ngumi says his back “was so sore people had to wipe the pus out using tissue. I wasn’t taken to the hospital.”
According to Bahamian newspaper The Tribune, Ngumi also contracted Tuberculosis, conjunctivitis, and an unidentified disease that left his whole body itchy.
The country’s Supreme Court awarded him B$641,950 (Ksh71 million) as compensation. Justice Indra Charles said $386,000 was for false imprisonment, assault, and battery, $50,000 aggravated damages, $100,000 in exemplary damages, $105,000 in constitutional damages by way of compensation and vindication, and $950 in special damages.
Ngumi had claimed $11million (Ksh1.2bn) in compensation.
How did the Saga Begin?
Ngumi, 49, went to The Bahamas in 1997. His mission was to visit a family friend studying in one of the country’s international colleges. He stayed on, and three years later, married Gricilda Vanessa Pratt, a native.
As a result, Vanessa applied for a spousal permit for Ngumi in 2001. But he never received it. The couple’s marriage went south, though they did not officially divorce. Ngumi applied for a work permit in 2005. When he subsequently sought to renew it, his request was denied.
Not wanting to violate the country’s immigration laws, Ngumi rotated his stays within Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and The Bahamas between 2006 and 2011. He didn’t want to overstay his Visa.
In 2011, his luck run out and he was arrested by immigration officers at his home in The Bahamas. After arraignment, he pleaded guilty for immigration violation. The court recommended that he be deported to Kenya. That, however, did not happen.
One year later, he was back in court over a more serious offence of drug possession. The Tribune reports that Ngumi pleaded guilty to the offense. Again, the judge recommended his deportation. According to the newspaper, Ngumi only pleaded guilty so that he could be taken back to a detention centre (for those awaiting deportation), instead of prison.
“In July 2017, a habeas corpus application, which requires officials to bring a detainee to court, was filed on his behalf and he was released from the detention center on August 4th, 2017,” writes The Tribune.
Justice Indra ruled that although Ngumi’s January 2011 arrest was procedural, failure by the authorities to charge him within the statutory period and to deport him rendered his incarceration illegal.
Ngumi’s is the largest award of its kind in the Caribbean country’s history.