Prison is the last place anyone would imagine a celebrity to have been. With Nigerian celebrities, the common destination is always abroad but there have been some exceptions.
Few Nigerian Celebrities have been to prison over the years. Some of these celebrities are people you are familiar with, others are those you don’t really know and may not be aware they have ever been to prison.
These celebrities amongst whom are musicians and actresses have been sentenced for various reasons ranging from manslaughter, credit card theft, drug trafficking, burglary amongst other crimes.
Various crimes were committed by these celebrities both in the diaspora and in Nigeria. In each case, they were found wanting and had to face the law.
The law spelled out death by hanging for some and deportation for others. Some of these affected celebrities suffered setbacks in their careers due to the ex-convict status while others acquired some kind of fame and popularity.
Which of these Nigerian celebrities do you think was sentenced to death? What was his or her offense? Well, let’s get acquainted with these celebrities and why they went to prison.
10 Nigerian Celebrities Who Have Been To Prison
1. Ibinabo Fiberesima
Ex-beauty queen and current National Director Miss Earth Nigeria Ibinabo Fiberesima is a beautiful Nigerian actress and director. She is born to an Irish mother and a Nigerian father on 13th, January 1970. The actress who was the former president of Actors Guide Of Nigeria is one of the few Nigerian celebrities who have been to prison.
Fiberesima was arrested in 2006 and charged to court for manslaughter and reckless driving. The incident which led to her arrest happened on 26th, February 2016 while driving across Lekki – Ekpe expressway. She lost control and collided with a vehicle on the inbound lane leading to the death of the driver Dr. Suraj Giwa.
Certainly, the incident fostered the charges and in 2009, she was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison by Justice Deborah Oluwayemi of a Lagos State High court. She was granted bail after making an appeal but her appeal was dismissed on 11th, March 2016 and her five-year jail term upheld.
Furthermore, the actress spent 93 days in KiriKiri prison before she was granted bail with the sum of 2 million Naira. During this period of time, she lost her position as the president of AGN ( Actors Guild Of Nigeria) and also developed lumps in her breast.
In a series of Instagram posts made by the actress on 27th, April 2017 she narrated her ordeal after been called out by a reporter named Azuka for wanting to contest as a local government chairman in Okrika Rivers State. In her explanation of the incident, she narrated thus :
” I was driving along Lekki road, returning home after picking up a friend’s daughter from a church Fellowship. Suddenly, a red car overtook the SUV in front of me. The SUV was travelling slowly, so I shifted to its front, too. The red vehicle was being driven by a young man and had his friends with him…I drove past the red car. I think that might have angered the young chap because he swiftly sped from behind, drove past me and made a sudden stop in my front.
Able God (Zumix) crooner Sinzu who was formerly known as Sauce kid is one of the Nigerian celebrities who has been to prison. The musician who was born as Babalola Falemi started singing in 2005, with the hit single ” Omoge Wa Jo”. He ventured into music back in the days when present-day music crooners such as Wizkid, Davido and the likes of them have not been birthed musically.
Sinzu would have scaled greater height as at now but he relocated to the united state after his secondary education. After his relocation, he became sloppy in his musical career and went off music. It was during the time of his demise from music that the platinum boys (Donjazzy, Dbanj, and Wandecoal) started making waves in the music industry and thereafter the likes of Wizkid came forth.
In 2016, Sinzu was arrested in the united states for ground theft after he was caught with a card encoding device and $6,000 at the airport. Authorities acclaimed that he stole $15,388 from the unsuspecting victims by changing bank card pins and falsely withdrawing from their bank accounts.
He was found with over fifteen (15) fraudulent credit cards and sentenced to two years jail term in 2016. Similarly, he served his jail term and was released in 2018.
3. Naira Marley
Nigerian singer – Naira Marley brought the attention of security agencies in Nigeria upon himself after he took to Instagram to declare that Internet fraud is not a crime as it serves as a punishment to the whites for the ill-treatment they rendered to our fore-fathers.
The singer wasn’t willing to change his stance on internet fraud as he went on to attack everyone that had a contrary believe.
Shortly after publicly declaring his stance on internet fraud, Naira Marley teamed up with his music partner and friend – Zlatan on a song that still talks about internet fraud titled ‘Am I A Yahoo Boy’.
On the 10th of May, 2019, following a raid, Naira Marley was arrested at Gbangbola Street in Ikate, Lekki area, Lagos by the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) in connection with an alleged case of internet fraud and money laundering. Naira Marley was arrested alongside Zlatan, Rahman Jago, and two others. Five days after their arrest – Zlatan, Rahman Jago and the two others who were arrested gained their freedom but Naira Marley was still held in custody due to some incriminating items found in his laptop.
He was arraigned at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos and he pleaded not guilty to the 11 counts leveled against him and the case was adjourned to the 30th of May, 2019 for bail application while he remained in prison.
The singer returned to court on the 30th of May and Justice Nicholas Oweibo granted him bail of the sum of 2 Million Naira while the case was adjourned till October 22 for the trial to commence.
4. Uche Odoputa
A lot of us know Mr. Uche by the various names he has answered in Nigerian home videos. We know him as a veteran actor but certainly may be unaware he has been to prison. Uche Odoputa is a talented Nigerian actor who came to light in 2000.
He was born 23rd, September 1969 and hails from Imo state. The actor was featured in various bestseller Nigerian home videos till 2007 when he was convicted for drug trafficking. Mr. Uche was sentenced to prison after his conviction and he served two years and three weeks.
In an interview with Vanguard, after the actor’s release from prison, he narrated his ordeal saying “I regret my actions. I was a growing brand and a lot of people were angered by my action. I was disappointed in myself. I thank God I came out of prison a changed person.
It took away my career and the little fame I had at that time, gaining recognition in Nollywood and even among my colleagues has been a struggle since then. The late Amaka Igwe paid part of my legal fees, she was always in contact with me and never abandoned me. She took me under her tutelage after I was freed from prison and taught me directing.
While others paid to learn to direct, she taught me for free. I was to direct the job she was working on before she died. Up till now, I can’t bring myself to delete her telephone number. I still hear her voice sometimes. She was a good woman. John Okafor ( Mr Ibu ) used to send me recharge cards which I sold. That enabled me to take care of myself when I was imprisoned.”
Over the years after Uche Odoputa conviction and release from prison, the actor has grown his career, featured in best selling premiered Nigerian movies, directed great movies and traveled out of the country multiple times.
5. Zlatan Ibile
After assisting Naira Marley on the single ‘Am I A Yahoo Boy’, the Zanku crooner was arrested by the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) on Naira Marley’s birthday.
Zlatan, Naira Marley, Rahman Jago, and two others were arrested after a raid by the EFCC at 9, Gbangbola Street, Ikate, Lekki, Lagos.
Five days after the arrest, Zlatan and every other person who was arrested was set free excluding Naira Marley who was still detained in police custody. After the release, Zlatan linked up his usual music producer – Rexxie and went on to release a song titled ‘4 Nights In Ekohtiebo‘ in which he shares his ordeal during his time in prison.
6. Fela Anikulapo Kuti
Almost every Nigerian knows legendary Afrobeat musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti who was born on 15th, October 1939 went to prison but they are unaware of what took him to prison and how long he spent. Well, the multi-talented instrumentalist and Afrobeat musician who is renowned for his fearlessness was sentenced to prison in 1984 during the military rule Muhammadu Buhari.
Fela was arrested in Murtala Muhammed Airport on his way to a scheduled concert in Europe. Reason being that he was in possession of £ 1, 600 pounds. Prior to his arrest, the government had enacted a law to prosecute anyone found with money exceeding £500. Although the artist explained that the money was meant for the entire band of 26 persons, he was still arrested.
After trials in court, Fela was sentenced to ten years imprisonment which was to be served for five years. He spent twenty months (1 year and eight months) in prison before he was released after a new coup defeated Buhari.
On his return from prison, he granted an interview where he said “Prison didn’t change my life, it developed my way of thinking. I am very spiritually inclined. I am in prison, it gave me a lot of time to meditate and think about what this world is really about. It [gave] me knowledge about time. If anybody tells me 20 years is a long time, I will tell him no because prison has taught me that time is meaningless unless you want to understand what time is all about.
“I did not think about music in the prison but maybe a few times some sounds come into my head but I don’t write them down, maybe just hum them.
“What I did in prison was not to play games, I tried not to talk too much, I tried to remain by myself. I just tried to meditate. That’s all I did.
“You see, prison is supposed to get you bored. So when people go in there, they try not to get bored. So I tell myself, ‘okay, you want to make me bored. I am going to get myself bored so that I will not be afraid to go in next time.
“So I go in there to understand what boredom is about. So it gave knowledge about patience. Those are the kind of things prison has taught me. I am prepared to go back. I am really prepared.”
However, the legend lived on till 1997 when he allegedly died of aids but speculation still makes round that his death was collateral damage. That he was inflicted in prison for his public criticism of the government in his songs. What do you believe?
7. Neyu Godwon Nyan
Rapper Godwon who was born as Neyu Godwin Nyan and hails from Kaduna state is a household name in the Rap community. He started in Houston Texas after he relocated with his family due to an assassination attempt on his father. The Rapper contested in an Eminem rap contest in Texas and won.
Winning the contest brought him to the limelight with various deals and signup. Godwon went on to release a hit single where he featured his then friend Sinzu and Ikechukwu. After the release of his single him and Sinzu both had an uproar.
Due to the uproar, Godwon revealed Sinzu’s mugshot and surveillance of his arrest on the grounds of ATM theft. Shortly after Godwon’s revelation of Sinzu’s shortcomings, he was arrested for burglary and theft.
Godwon conviction was that he broke into a lady’s house and stole some of her belongings and candy. The stolen items were found in his car. As a result of his offense, he was sentenced in 2009 and released in 2011 after serving three years in prison.
8. Dammy Krane
Dammy Krane’s arrest hit the Nigerian music industry with great surprise and disbelief. Many stipulated that his bid to live a trendy and expensive lifestyle led him into theft. Dammy’s whose birth name is Oyindamola Johnson Emmanuel was arrested on 2nd, June 2017 in the US for ATM theft and forgery.
The “Amen” singer was alleged to have used stolen credit card details to book a jet for a trip to Miami from a private jet leasing company. Dammy spent three days in prison awaiting trial because he pleaded not guilty of the charges.
Finally, after his trial, all charges against the singer were canceled and lifted and he was set free.
9. Lola Margaret
Less than a week after Sinzu was sentenced to two years jail term likewise Dammy Krane detention in a Miami prison, Yoruba actress Lola Magaret Oladipupo was arrested in the united states in 2017.
The actress was arrested for the withdrawal of huge sums of money deposited into her account. Prior to her arrest, she had been withdrawing a huge amount which was unaccountable. Her arrest surfaced with her mugshot online creating speculations that the actress was helping “yahoo boys” defraud foreigners abroad.
Lola spent weeks in prison before she was released and deported to Nigeria. The actress relocated to Ibadan immediately after her deportation. She has gotten her life together over the years since the incident.
10. Rabi Ismaila
Nigerian Kannywood actress Rabi Ismaila was the real celebrity who broke the law and went to prison. The actress was convicted and sentenced in 2005 for the murder of her boyfriend who was also an actor.
Rabi poisoned her boyfriend in 2002 with chocolate during a picnic and pushed him into a river where he drowned. Due to the murder, the court found her guilty and she was sentenced to death by hanging. She made appeals to the Supreme Court but it was denied, and her sentence to death upheld in 2011.
When she was still in prison awaiting her roll call, the actress escaped and was only caught six (6) years later in 2017. She was said to have committed the cross act of murder in other to take hold of the victim’s property.
It is most noteworthy that the dominant crime committed among Nigerian celebrities who have been to prison is that of ATM fraud. This act of crime was carried out by musicians for reason we cannot really foretell.
Consequently, the exceptional case of unaccountable money withdrawal has been the only recorded fraudulent act performed by a celebrity that led to detention in prison.
Although every case was pitiful, actress Rabi’s case certainly seems unbelievable and heartless considering the reasons for her actions. What do you think about these celebrities and how their cases where handle? I am grateful Rabi faced the law. What if she wasn’t caught after her escape?
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