Few days ago, precisely on the 4th of August 2015, l led my family members on a visit to Owerri Federal Prisons to be with the inmates, show them love and
to thank Almighty God for sparing my life and that of my wife from the evil and wicked machination of Governor Rochas Okorocha, Ex-Speaker Benjamin Uwajumogu and the very irresponsible Imo State Police Command headed then by C.P Albdulmajid Ali (08033104650), who is now Ogun State Commissioner of Police. The then Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. David O. Folawiyo (08032001951) was part of this evil plot.
[Photo: Ikenna Samuelson Iwuoha and prison officials at the Owerri prison facility]
I chose the Owerri Federal Prisons for the thanksgiving ceremony because Almighty God would be more honoured than doing same in my Local church here in Owerri. For the records, I am an Anglican Christian.
It is no longer news that my wife spent 6½ months (200 days) in Prison custody while I spent 328 days (11 months) over a crime we never committed. It is equally no news that the murder allegation framed against us by the very corrupt, fraud infested and shameless Rochas Okorocha led government, Ex- Speaker Uwajumogu and the rubber stamp Imo State Police Command was quashed by Hon. Justice Irene Duruoha -Igwe of High Court 4, on the 27th of April 2015. What is rather news is that, there is need to alert the whole world that there are many innocent people in Nigerian prisons, either Awaiting trial or serving prison sentences due to the very corrupt system in our judiciary, the police and government generally.
This brings me to the title of this piece; CHALLENGES FACING PRISON INMATES IN NIGERA. I will use the Owerri Federal Prisons to anchor my explanation in this article. This does not in any way mean that I am exposing the activities at the Owerri Federal Prisons, its administrations and style of leadership. No. Rather, I want to draw home my point. The Prison Authorities treated me and my wife well; therefore, it will be unethical to throw stones at them. I am very much grateful to them.
The inmates of Nigerian Prisons pass through so many challenges. While many of these challenges are self-inflicted, others are purely as a result of conspiracy of their complainants, the police, and the judiciary in most cases poverty. Self-infected because without committing the crime for which some of them were remanded in prison, they would not be suffering what they are presently suffering. Nevertheless, let me list the challenging factors facing prison inmates in Nigeria as follows.
1. Over –population
2. Poor Quality of food
3. Lack of Adequate health care
4. Poverty and inability to hire lawyers
5. Over 90% of inmates are awaiting trials, while 10% are convicts.
6. Prison Authorities only provide food for inmates. They do not provide essential items like Bathing Soaps, Clothes Washing Soaps, Tissue Papers, Slippers, Tooth Paste, Tooth Brushes, Body Creams, Sanitary Pads For women inmates, Boxers, Pants, Singlet’s, Etc….
7. Lack (absence) of Judges in high courts
8. Conspiracy of State Counsels with complainants to ensure that cases are given very long adjournments
9. Conspiracy of Judges with compliments to ensure that cases are given long adjournments
10. Disappearance (missing case files) of cases files of inmates; thereby forcing them to spend as long as 10 years or more in prisons without appearing in court for one day.
11. Children born by female inmates undergo Psychological torture.
12. Mental illness among inmates.
13. Sexual Abuses among inmates through the practice of homosexual and lesbian activities.
14. Drug abuse through the use of Indian hemp, and so on and so forth.
Ikenna Samuelson Iwuoha and family at the Owerri prison facility
Let me treat these factors one by one:
OVER POPULATION: This is a major factor that is making life to be very unbearable for prison inmates. At Owerri Federal Prisons, there are approximately 2000 inmates, plus or minus 100. Out of this number, only about 10% are convicts serving their various jail terms. The remaining ones are awaiting trial inmates. The cells at the prisons are usually over crowded. For example, my cell (1 WARD 2 cell) measuring 32 feet in length and 28 feet in width has approximately 100 inmates staying there. Whereas ordinarily not more than 40 inmates are supposed to be there. The 100 people use only 1 bathroom and 2 toilets. This makes it easy for one to contact diseases especially skin rashes, “Apollo”, chicken pox, small pox, measles etc. I was lucky, I did not contact any. (It is not a laughing matter).
POOR QUALITY OF FOOD = the quality of food being served the inmates is nothing to write home about. Their soup is called “Chakpadim”. This is because it is too watery. Their Beans is ‘’averagely’’ okay. Their Rice and Garri is “Something else”. The sizes of meat and fish served the inmates are as small as “TOM-TOM Sweet. Due to the poor quality of food served the inmates in general, they look malnourished. I never ate Prison food; neither did I drink their water. My wife and I were on self-feeding throughout our stay.
LACK OF ADEQUATE HEALTH CARE = the health facilities in Prisons are not adequate. It can only take care of minor health challenges like headache, typhoid fever, measles, small pox, chicken pox, etc. Also Retroviral drugs for HIV positive inmates are available. Health facilities at the prisons cannot take care of inmates with sight (eyes) problems, tooth aches, kidney problems, liver problems, mentally deranged fellows, pregnant female inmates, and serious cases that require surgery etc. Hence occasionally, deaths occur among the inmates, due to lack of adequate health facilities.
POVERTY AND INABILITY TO HIRE LAWYERS: This is a major factor frustrating many inmates and has deprived many of them from securing their freedom. As a result many of them waste up to ten years in prison (Awaiting trials) without going to court.
OVER 90% INMATES ARE AWAITING TRIALS: This is a major factor because our Criminal Justice system is not effective. It is very fraudulent.
The Nigerian Prisons Service do not provide essential items like soaps, tooth brush, tooth paste, chewing sticks, tissue papers, sanitary pads, body creams, detergents, inner wears (pants and singlets), slippers, etc. for the inmates. They only provide food as I mentioned earlier. This simply means that inmates are left to fend for themselves on these essential items. While the rich ones manage to provide these items, the poor ones simply end up as shadow of themselves.
Absence of Judges in Courts: This is a notorious fact. In Imo State, there are about 15 High Courts in Owerri Judicial Division, but only 3 or 4 High Courts are functional with Judges. The remaining courts are empty and under lock and key. Yet, thousands of cases were criminally assigned to them, just to ensure that people (inmates) remain permanently in prison. I want to be proved wrong. If I am challenged on this, I will give details.
Conspiracy of State Counsels with complainants to ensure that cases are given long adjournments. This factor is self-explanatory and it is the truth. At least, it is happening in Imo State.
Conspiracy of Judges with complainants to ensure that cases are given long adjournments. This is a notorious fact. In Imo State it is happening. These Judges are called political and business judges. They are shameless. In extreme cases, these dishonourable Judges adjourn cases “SINE – DEI”, to justify money they collected from the complainants (mostly, Government House Officials), thereby keeping innocent people (inmates) permanently in Prison. If I am challenged, I will give details.
MISSING CASE FILE: This is equally a notorious fact. Many innocent inmates at the Owerri Federal Prisons do not know the whereabouts’ of their case files. Police officers of the Imo State Police command who are (were) the Investigating Police Officers are reportedly guilty of this debilitating wickedness. I want to be proved wrong.
CHILDREN BORN BY FEMALE INMATES UNDERGO PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE. This is an acknowledged fact. Most of these female inmates were impregnated by their Investigating Police Officers who promised to assist them out of the case when they were detained at the Police station who merely used them to satisfy their sexual desires. Some female inmates are married and might have been pregnant before being remanded at the prisons. Yet others might have been impregnated inside prison premises “Under Special Arrangement” to Satisfy Sexual Desires of Female inmates. Also some female inmates might have had their babies shortly before being arrested by the police, taken to court and thereafter remanded in prisons for crimes earlier committed. The Resultant effect is that children born by the female inmates suffer from lack of love, home training, psychological torture, and unaware of the existence of life outside the walls of prisons. 90% of children born inside Prisons grow up to fight the society.
MENTAL ILLNESS AMONG INMATES= It is a notorious fact that inmates who are not organized, disciplined, God fearing and who engage in Indian hemp smoking and other vices inside the prison yard end up running insane. Others run insane due to over-thinking of their situation in prison etc.
SEXUAL ABUSES AMONG INMATES = this is a notorious fact. Homosexuality and lesbianism among inmates are rampant. Having stayed in Prison for so long and without the opportunity to have sex with the opposite sex, some inmates resort to the evil practice of homosexuality and lesbianism. However, Prison Authorities at the Owerri Federal Prisons have placed adequate measure to check this abnormal method of sexual satisfaction. Any inmate or inmates caught in this satanic act is (are) given punishment. For example, when two people are caught in homosexual act, they are usually flogged, stripped naked and charcoal dust poured on them. After that, they would be made to undergo “black wedding” and driven in wheel-barrow truck round the prison yard. After which they would be made to under-go another round of punishment which I will not like to disclose in this piece. For me, I support even stiffer and harder punishment for any inmate caught in homosexual act.
DRUG ABUSE = this is a notorious fact, and it is self-explanatory.
I have taken my time to list the challenges facing Prison inmates in Nigeria using the Owerri Federal Prisons as my ‘’Anchor Point’’. Let me therefore plead with the reading public to join me in my “Vehicle” as I drive down to the “Solution Ground” that will ameliorate or soften the sufferings and challenges facing Prison inmates in Nigeria.
They are as follows =
(1) There should be Special Amnesty by Mr. President for inmates (both convicts and Awaiting Trials) who have spent 15 years and above. The only criteria for this Special Amnesty should be attested good behavior, positively changed character and fear of God by Prison Authorities. This Special Amnesty by Mr. President should take place twice every year, precisely on (1) National Independence Anniversary Day (October 1) and Democracy Day Celebration (May 29).
(2) Patriotic Citizens of Nigeria and Organizations filled with milk of human kindness, sympathy and true love should play their roles by visiting our prison inmates scattered across the various prison yards in the Country with item Like Indomie noodles, Tissue Papers, washing soaps, Bathing soaps, Sanitary pads, tooth brushes, underwear, slippers, Body Cream, tooth pastes, etc. For God’s sake Prison inmates are one of us.
(3) The National Human Rights Commission, Non-Governmental Organizations, ‘’Self-Governmental’’ Organizations, Social Crusaders and Activists should come together and force state governments with empty High Courts, Magistrate Courts etc. to fill them with responsible Judges. Imo State should be a test case, because 80% of the High Courts have no Judges, yet thousands of cases were criminally assigned to them just to punish innocent people.
(4) Decongestion of prisons through the setting up of Special Committees across the states to review cases of inmates who are awaiting trials, but who have not gone to court for trials after being remanded for 2 years in Prison should be supported. The Committees should have the following people as members (1) State Chief Judges (2) Attorney General and Commissioners of Justice (3) States High Court Registrars (4) Administrative Judges (5) A responsible elder statesman.(6) A respected Catholic Bishop, or Anglican Bishop, or Pentecostal Bishop. It must not be politicized by politicians in Power.
(5) Adjournment of various Cases should not go beyond one week.
Through this method, inmates who are innocent of the crimes for which they were remanded in prison would be released, discharged and acquitted, while those who committed crimes are sentenced with various jail terms as quickly as possible.
(6) Special Concession should be given to women who gave birth to babies in prisons. They should be granted bail so that they attend their court cases from their various homes.
(7) There should be improved health facilities at the prisons.
(8) Good Samaritan Lawyers should volunteer to assist awaiting trial inmates who are unable to fund their cases in courts.
Through the outlined strategies, the challenges facing Prisons inmates in Nigeria would be ameliorated, and the larger Nigerian Society will be better.
Citizen Ikenna Samuelson Iwuoha
Former Senior Special Assistant on Media
Immediate past Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties
Imo State House of Assembly