By Chiemelie Ezeobi
The Comptroller of Prisons, Lagos State Command of the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS), CP Tinuoye Olumide, has called on both the Federal Government and the judiciary to convert the life sentences of 168 condemned inmates in the command to life imprisonment.
Olumide made this call at the welcome ceremony organised by the Deputy Comptroller of Prisons (DCP), Kirikiri Female Prisons, Mrs. Lizzie Ekpendu, for him in Lagos.
DCP Ekpendu, who said her desire was to see the judiciary set free those on awaiting trial list so that they could fulfill their destinies, added that they decided to host the new comptroller to intimate him on the needs of the residents of the prison.
Fielding questions from journalists afterwards, the CP, who recently resumed work in Lagos, unveiled his plans for the command and the prisoners, especially the condemned ones.
THISDAY gathered that the 168 condemned inmates are spread across the Maximum and Minimum Prisons in Kirikiri Town, Apapa, as well as the Ikoyi Prisons.
On the major challenge he plans to tackle first he said, “First, the problem we have majorly is that of awaiting trials. Now that I have come to Lagos, I would like to liaise with Ministry of Justice most importantly so that inmates who have stayed longer don’t have any reason to be in the prisons.
“Another thing, I definitely want to address is the issue of condemned prisoners. As I speak now, we have a total of 168 condemned inmates.
“Globally as it were, nations are gradually leaving the issue of killing people even when such committed an offence.
“I think that is a general thing. I would like to ensure that those who are condemned, their sentences are converted to life imprisonment.
“By that, we would be able to decongest the cell where they are. We have a lot of prisons that can take life imprisonment inmates. That is definitely what we are going to do.”
Given the recent issue of jail breaks in some states he said, “When people say prison break, to us that are working in the prisons, it means that the inmates in the prisons rioted and they broke the jail and got away.
“I want us to get the two concepts – prisons breaks and escapes. Escapes is not new to the prisons and with every escape that happen, whether here or maybe in foreign countries, it is a sign that there is security lapse somewhere and we need to block that loophole.
“The recent escapes that we had, we need to see that all those areas that need to be amended, all those security features that need to be enhanced are improved and that is what we need to be doing.”
Also speaking on the issue of discipline he said, “Those that committed offences against the laws of the prisons services are being tried. A lot of them are being dismissed and a lot of them are reduced in ranks and a lot of them are being punished
“But if the offence is just very minor, we give them extra duty but if the offence is such that could warrant bringing drugs in, we have handed a lot of our offences to the National Drug Law and Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
“Sometimes, we hand over to the police authorities for prosecution where they committed crimes that are criminal offence.
“Prisons service is a very disciplined service, we don’t take laxity. If you commit an offence, definitely you will be punished.”
Commending DCP Ekpendu for deeming it fit to organise the welcome, he said, “It was a surprise thing by the officer in charge of female prisons. She thought it fit to welcome me to the state since I resumed in March.
“I am rather surprised because she didn’t tell me what she was doing. I only came here and met a very elaborate programme. I say thanks to her.
“For her work here, she has done marvelously well. She has built a laboratory where whatever illness an inmate may have can be tested here and built a lot of resting places for inmates.
“She has done a lot of things. The prison can however be improved. In the prisons, apart from remanding an inmate, which is basically confinement, another function we should be doing is reformation of prisons inmates.
“We have a lot of steps to take in that direction. We are putting a lot of things in place but definitely, we have not gotten there.
“If you go to the maximum prisons, we have had a lot of our inmates that have graduated with Masters Degree while they are in prisons. They did everything while in prisons from the first degree.
“What we are waiting for if there are enabling laws that make them to be re-integrated better back into the society.”
Addressing the long-held tradition of prisoners paying money to access outside the walls and bring in contrabands he said plans were on ground already.
He said, “I have been privileged to be in charge of maximum security prisons and I have zero tolerance for contra-band. However, prisons generally, contraband do get in even though we do all our best.
“I have liaised with the state government and they have promised us a lot of things to do so that as you are coming in, if you carry anything, the moment you enter the gate, it will show and be detected.
“With manual detection, it is going to be very difficult but with technology, we would be able to overcome those challenges.”