Guilty Until Proven Innocent
From the Field August 19, 2014
We started the Lutheran Bible Institute in Nigeria to train our pastors beginning in January 1987. Twelve men began with eight of those graduating. In the first years we had quite a number of applicants. While we sought to filter out trouble, it came nonetheless. The devil was not pleased with our effort. One student we admitted in those first years turned out to be a thief. We found out that he would reach in through a window and steal our theological books off the shelf to sell in the big Uyo market. While this was not all he stole, the disappearance of these books ultimately led to our finding him out. When he was arrested and interrogated, he disclosed who he was friends with at the Bible Institute. The head constable at the local police office at Efa where the Bible Institute was situated called in the three men sited as friends of the criminal. That sounded fine at first, as we would not want to have a criminal ring operating out of the Bible Institute.
But then I found out about the interrogation practice. In going in to find when our three men would be released, I was told by the head constable that they were not going to be released until the following week! It seems that the approach would be that they could cool their heels in the jail for several days to see if they would break and admit any crime. I asked the constable, “You mean you consider them guilty until proven innocent.” He answered “Yes”, and told me that as a foreigner I would have to learn that they did things their way and not to get involved until they were finished.
Several days in the Efa jail were not like several days in a US jail. While the process was going on there were no visits allowed. Food had to be brought in to them from the outside or they would not eat. They had to sleep on the cement floor. Each morning they had to carry out and empty the ‘slop’ bucket into which they had relieved themselves. And of course there was the ignominy of being incarcerated in the local jail. We sent food to them and prayed. When they were released, I met them and apologized over and over again for what had happened. Giving them a sum of money to express my deep sorrow over what they went through was little enough compensation.
They were innocent. No crime ring existed. The three men are faithful pastors in our NCLC today serving the Lord who has brought them through so much. Count it all joy when you meet various trials, knowing that it will test your faith to make it stronger.