Tems, the Nigerian singer, recently talked about her experience in a Ugandan prison, where she spent two whole days in 2020 for breaking COVID-19 laws. She described her time in the prison as tough and shared her initial disbelief about being released.

Tems felt completely isolated during her detention and struggled to adapt to prison life quickly. She recounted her journey from being taken from her hotel to receiving her prison uniform, which made the reality sink in, leading her to tears.

“I thought I wasn’t gonna come out. I thought I was seeing it for a reason, like maybe I was meant to help the people,” she said.

Omah Lay and Tems

Tems explained that she adapted to her surroundings swiftly, even though the prison conditions were challenging. She had no bed, just the floor with blankets and tissues for two days, and she had no information about when she’d be released.

Despite her hopefulness, Tems was concerned about the other women in the prison, many of whom were detained for minor offenses, sometimes at the whim of paid guards. In the prison, making phone calls required money, which she didn’t have.

To cope and avoid crying, Tems winked at the other inmates when they stared at her. She needed to show confidence, even in a nerve-wracking situation.

When the woman in charge of the women’s prison explained the rules and consequences, Tems learned that solitary confinement was the harshest punishment. Inmates had to kneel to speak to officials and were only fed once a day. During her two-day stay, Tems barely ate and survived on water.

Tems and Omah Lay were charged with breaking COVID-19 guidelines in Uganda after their performance at The Big Brunch on December 12, 2020. Back in Nigeria, efforts were made to secure their immediate release. Her manager’s father even went to see then-President Buhari in Abuja, leading to their eventual release and return home.


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