Amby Uneze in Owerri
Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, has called for collaboration between federal and state governments for the welfare of prison inmates and the prison conditions, stressing that the essence of sending people to prison is to make them better citizens.
Okorocha who spoke when the Controller-General of Prisons, Ja’afaru Ahmed, paid him a courtesy visit at the Government House, Owerri, at the weekend, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for improving the Nigerian Prisons under his administration.
The governor hinted that the visit of the Controller-General to the state was the beginning of the process of the handover of the new ultra-modern Nigeria Prisons facilities built by his administration, adding that he decided to build the new prison headquarters after seeing the pictures of most Nigerian prisons.
The governor said: “I discovered that the condition of the Imo State’s prisons was the worst and I had to plead passionately with the Controller-General not to display it further to the public because of the very poor images of the prisons. There were all sorts of shanties, debris and every manner of filth which is an eyesore to a modern society not even good for piggery. I discovered that they were having about 70 to 100 inmates in one small room without facilities at all.”
According to him, “this is what has prompted the speedy construction of new prison project with accommodation for over 3,000 inmates with offices, as a quick response and funded by the Imo State Government. I hope that when this is replicated all over the country, the presentation of those pictures will no longer be relevant to all of us”.
“The government also did this to relocate the prisons from closeness to the Government House and also to avoid the risk of jail break. Before, there were about 500 inmates but now they are over 2,000 inmates. So, what we have done in Imo State is a complementary effort to support the efforts of the federal government. President Buhari has promised to inaugurate this project. The new location of the prison headquarters makes for easy movement since it is close to the new Police headquarters and the courts.
Earlier, the Controller-General of Prisons said “We have been conducted round to see the good concept that the governor has put together. The environment is very airy and the places roomy enough, more than what we used to have.”
This surely will make for a better treatment of inmates. I thank Governor Okorocha and Imo people for answering this clarion call at the national executive council meeting and accepting the challenge.”
He remarked “I think the federal and state governments should work in collaboration to see that the welfare of prisoners take top priority. The federal government has commenced a 36.5-hectare of modern prisons complex that will accommodate any number of inmates with Abuja and Kano as models which other states will follow up with. But there is no decision yet on the South-east.”
According to him, “the Prisons pharmacy in Owerri is still stocked and we have started exposing prisoners to information and workshops as a way of reform. Today, we have prisoners with certificates of GL 1, GL 2 & GL 3. Infact, in Abeokuta prisons, 50 inmates have graduated while 465 are doing degree programmes with National Open University (NOUN). One is doing his PhD and this drew the attention of UNESCO to Nigeria to witness the combination of skill acquisition with education in Nigeria.”