“What happened to your finger?” people ask me when they shake my hand and see my nails.
What happened is that my fingernails and toenails were pulled out. The scars people see are the lasting marks that torture has left me with. When I wear sandals, seeing my toes reminds me of what I went through.
Torture affects people in so many ways. It’s inhuman: heating cutlasses on a fire and then flogging a person’s back is barbaric. It affects people mentally: it causes madness. They pass out because of the pain and admit to things they never did.
What I went through – the torture and being on death-row – affected me in so many ways. It affected my plans for life and my ambitions at school. I spent ten years in jail; by now I could have finished school and have started working. When I was released I met old friends who are now working, now married, and I thought, I’ve been left behind. It affected my family: it brought them stigma and my mother’s business crumbled. The pain affected my mother’s health, she developed high blood pressure and still suffers.
What struck me most is that you can live in a country where you can face so much tragedy for no reason, and yet still have to live there. I will always pray for change in Nigeria, but I advise others living here to be very careful, so that they will not fall victim to what I went through.
Join the fight against torture so that others will not go through such painMoses Akatugba
For some, being on death-row hardens their heart. But you must always look ahead and believe that change will come soon. That’s why I’m very happy to join the campaign against torture: anywhere in Nigeria and globally.
Over 800,000 people signed the petition to free me through Amnesty’s Stop Torture campaign. That support means everything to me. I’ve never met these people but they used their time, money, energy and I received thousands of letters and cards from them. I am so grateful to Justine [the Director of HURSDEF, Nigeria’s Human Rights Social Development and Environmental Foundation], Amnesty youth groups, students and volunteers. They are the reason I am free; they are my heroes.
My message to torture survivors is this: join the fight against torture so that others will not go through such pain. If I have my way, and can stop torture, I will be the happiest man on earth. I don’t want any future generation to go through what I went through in that torture chamber.
26 June is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Find out how you can get involved around the world and take action here.