Warders, Ex-inmates Speak On Life In Ikoyi Prison

Business Owners Get Federal Govt’s N150,000 Grant In Ekiti

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The Ikoyi Correction Centre, formerly known as Ikoyi Prison, was built in 1955 and is located in the highbrow Ikoyi area on Lagos Island. It has hosted many prominent people in the country.

As time goes on, urbanisation has eaten into the setbacks that ought to be around correctional centres. Operations in correctional facilities leave much to be desired as high-level extortion becomes a norm in the centre.

A prison official told LEADERSHIP Weekend that the rot is a matter of grave concern. The devastating state of welfare and extortion at the Ikoyi Correctional Centre have made warders and inmates express fears that riots will loom if the government shows no adequate concern to address the ongoing rot at the facility.

Sources revealed that food given to inmates, food donated by Non-Government Organizations, and religious bodies were being carted away from the prison yard.

According to sources, extortion of inmates is not only rife but prison wardens are also being exploited by their superiors.

Multiple sources noted that the exploitation of inmates could involve paying a million naira for bed space at the Ikoyi facility.

“Our DCC is giving us problems. He is also extorting both officers and inmates. Officers pay every week while collecting between 700k and 1 million from inmates.

‘’If any inmates want to go to the cell line selling beds and cells to new inmates, collect provisions from welfare offices to give to his wife to be sold at Iddo market,” says the prison officials who do not want his name in print.

The source remarked, ” Once a new inmate comes and wants to, he is required to go to privileged cells and pay the money.’’

Meanwhile, a letter sighted from a concerned citizen dated 3rd June 2024 gave an account of the experience at the Ikoyi facility addressed to renowned Journalist and Arise TV anchor Reuben Abati. While copying the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji Ojo, and the Controller General of Corrections, Haliru Nababa, the letter disclosed that it is a matter of national interest regarding the management of the Ikoyi correctional facility in Lagos.

According to the letter, “I was a prisoner that served for one year and six months in Ikoyi correctional centre.

“I want to tell Nigerians that what is going on in Ikoyi prison is nothing but total corruption and business of the highest order. Recently, some top officials from the correctional headquarters in Abuja came to Ikoyi, which is worsening the corruption. Each day, I wake up inside the Ikoyi prison yard. I pray to God to bring me out of Ikoyi prison successfully. Sir, I am going to highlight some of the issues.

“If you are brought to Ikoyi Correctional Centre today, the cells are being paid for it, ranging from N1.5 million down to N50 000; the N50 000 is the lowest in the yard.

“The DCC in charge of the facility has an agent who is working for him, and this agent is also a staff of the service, but it surprised me when I came to understand that it’s an intelligent staff named Agim who is in this high-level of corruption because is desperate for money.

The letter stated, “This group of agents will ask you that whatever you need will be brought for you as far as you pay money, the payment ranging from 200k, 300k, and 500k, those amounts of money depending on what item you need. For the one year I spent inside, from day one to my exit from the centre, all 12 inmates in the cell together used costly mobile phones.

The letter further exposes the lifestyle of the inmates with allegations of inmates’ relatives being extracted while on visitation.

“In Ikoyi Correctional Center, we use fridges, freezers, microwaves, and standing air conditioners.

“For the period I was there, no time did any of my relatives visit me, and the head of the intelligence department demanded money. Many more illegal activities are going on in Ikoyi Correctional Centre.

I asked my lawyer to write to the authority of the service. Until now, nothing has been done about it, as the corruption is a very senior officer, even though he sold his in-mate for 1 million naira late last year, and nothing was done.

“Ikoýí correctional centre has now become the centre of a drug, sir. Anytime we, the prisoners, engage in discussions, some of my fellow prisoners say things were not as bad as this. I wonder where it went wrong because when we engaged in serious debate, they said that the previous leadership of the centre was not as bad as this, so how did we get to this stage? If you see the rate at which drugs are being taken, many of the inmates are now having different illnesses due to the high rate of drugs in Ikoyi. The correctional Center is now the home of all kinds of drug distributors. If you see the high volume of cartons of cigarettes brought in by the staff, you will be surprised, and you want to ask if they want to set up a tobacco company inside the yard.

“About a month ago, for this reason, sir, online publishing was made. Many inmates inside the Ikoyi prison yard are dying in silence because there is no way to speak out.

“I’m calling on stakeholders to kindly look into this issue because Nigeria belongs to all of us, and government facilities also belong to all of us Nigerians.

“The solution to this anarchy is simply to let the authorities of the correctional service make a 60% change of the leadership at Ikoyi Correctional Center, and you will see that things will be okay.”

Speaking with another ex-inmate of the facility, John, he described his experience while at the facility. He remarked, “I bought a solar panel from someone without knowing he was not related to the owner, who had travelled out of the country. They turned me into a guest at the Ikoyi Correction Centre.

“Inmates can’t eat the official prison’s food because it is inferior, and you need to have money to buy whatever you want like sachet water, toothbrush or paste to anything you want to eat there and you see the extortion of inmates, it’s an age-long thing. If you have a court case, you’ll  fuel their vehicle, as some inmates have to pay for it.”

“See, if the government is serious, all these things must be considered. The welfare of prisoners and even warders must be improved. You cannot stay there and eat the food they bring for you. You will either fall sick, or something terrible happens.

‘’No doubt, there is a need for training and retraining of some of our uniform personnel, including the prison officials, to be processed at all times. Nonetheless, inmates released after incarceration need to be evaluated concerning rehabilitation and reintegration post-incarceration into society. As this also must be of priority.

The prison official described the food as poor, and he placed more emphasis on extortion, which has become a norm in the facility.

“ He was transferred here in April last year and has been doing so. As the payment, every week is about 20K upward.”

When quizzed, is it a cash collection taken to the DCC’s office or a transfer to a proxy?

The official stated, “There are seven departments with a representative from each  envelope the weekly payment and takes it there.”

Nonpayment could result in victimisation or even being taken out of service.

The source expressed exhaustion that the weekly payment is unfair and unsustainable compared to what they take home.  The source argued that more light should be shed on food items like rice, beans, soft drinks, and other stuff being carted away by loyalists/ aides of the DCC.

As alleged, the food items are taken away when all inmates are locked in their cells. Some dedicated staff take them from the prison yard and load them into the official vehicle.

“The welfare is in charge of selling things to inmates, so he takes over the pure water section to enrich his wife, brought for you as far  weekly as the wife comes, but he used his office to carry it.”

The prison official reiterated that riots loom if the food items carted away are not investigated keenly, along with other welfare concerns, as they need urgent attention from the government.

However, he cited publications with links to the Foundation of Investigative Journalism (FIJ) as instances of openness and discussion about this for a while.

Meanwhile, in a chat with the Lagos State Corrections PRO, CSC, Rotimi Oladokun disclosed that the Nigeria Correction Service (NCS), Lagos Command, will look into it, as the command is unaware and does not tolerate misconduct from personnel.

“An internal investigation will be conducted to ascertain these concerns, as the service does not condone these shortcomings.

“If at all these are the concerns, we would like to itemise them, and we set up an investigation panel to look into this as well; thank you for the heads up,” he stated.

 

Congestion: FG Begins Audit Inmates In 256 Prison Facilities

Meanwhile, as part of efforts to decongest custodial centres across the country, the federal government has said it has commenced the audit of inmates across its 256 Custodial Centres Nationwide.

The Minister of Interior, Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, disclosed undertaking an inspection of the ongoing 3,000-capacity Maximum Security Custodial Centre in Janguza, Kano State, as well as the Medium Security Custodial Centre in Kuje, Abuja.

Tunji-ojo explained that the audit is necessary to enable the government to identify areas of intervention, adding that their approach was very empirical and scientific.

He said, “We don’t just throw solutions to unknown problems. We discover the problems; we know the root cause of issues and then find solutions to them.

“So, the audit system is being empirical and scientific,  which will lead massively to decongesting our Custodial Centres. It is not just saying you want to decongest. It is about you knowing the status. Life is all about data. Data is the new oil. Data is the blood of life in this millennium.

“The audit is going on, and by the time we are done with the audit, you will see the level of decongestion that we will have as a result of the audit. So, we are just being empirical”.

At the Kuje facility, the minister got a gift of three books authored by one of the inmates who had been in custody for the past 12 years.

Tunji-Ojo, elated, said the facilities are no longer prisons but correctional centres for reforming the legally interned.

Recall that the federal government had begun decongesting Kuje Custodial Centre following a jailbreak in the correctional facility.