A High Court in Nigeria’s Kano state has once again adjourned the trial of Professor Richard Solomon Musa Tarfa, co-founder of the Du Merci orphanages for vulnerable children in Kano and Kaduna states, this time until Feb. 22, 2022.
Professor Tarfa is accused of forging a certificate of registration from the Kano state Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development. During a court session held Oct. 6, the professor and a witness from his bank testified about how he acquired the certificate from the office of Women’s Affairs and Social Development, producing a bank account statement showing a payment to a director in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs for the certificate.
The case was adjourned until Nov. 23; however, the hearing on that day only lasted around 20 minutes. Earlier, both the professor’s lawyer and the state prosecutor was ordered by the judge to file their arguments within 21 days of Sept. 27. While Professor Tarfa’s lawyer had filed his own case 17 days before the deadline, the prosecuting lawyer only filed his case a day before the hearing, on Nov. 22, claiming he had forgotten to do so, and thereby allowing insufficient time for the presiding judge to examine it and arrive at a verdict.
Professor Tarfa was arrested Dec. 25, 2019 when armed police officers, accompanied by agents of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), invaded the Du Merci 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 Dec. 31, he was subsequently held in pre-trial detention until Dec. 10, 2020, when he was released on bail.
On June 24, 2021, he was >acquitted of abducting 19 children from their legal guardians and confining them in an unregistered orphanage by a High Court in Kano. The forgery charge he is currently answering was submitted during this trial by the lawyer for the prosecution a day before he had rested his case.
The current trial opened July 27 but was adjourned when the professor’s lawyer asked to be given time to produce witnesses to corroborate his statements and was subsequently adjourned until Nov. 23 for the judge to issue a verdict.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said, “It is hard not to conclude that a deliberate effort is underway to extend Professor Tarfa’s trial indefinitely. He has already been fully and rightfully acquitted of abducting 19 children, and evidence has already been provided which illustrates the accusations of forgery are unsubstantiated. This further lengthy adjournment prolongs an unnecessary ordeal to which the Tarfas and their family have now been subjected for nearly two years, depleting the family’s resources and compounding the suffering of the children, whose hopes of being reunited with their parents are raised and dashed with every new hearing. We reiterate our call for the professor’s swift and full acquittal, and once again urge the Kano state authorities to expedite the return of all of the Du Merci children and to ensure that full reparations are made for the trauma caused to this family during this lengthy and flawed process.”