Having established itself as the foremost Prison advocacy group in Nigeria, the Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative (PRAI) has continued to inspire hope through its continued partnership with prison services to rehabilitate prisoners in preparation for their reintegration into the larger society.
The Latest of PRAI’s prison program is an introduction of the PRAI’s three volunteer schemes (“Represent and Inmate”, “Educate an inmate” and “Empower an Inmate’) which aims at motivating the inmates to take advantage of the prison schools to develop themselves. The Director of PRAI Mr. Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem who spoke briefly on the objective of the program encouraged inmates to enroll in the school while assuring that PRAI would continue to contribute towards ensuring that their basic needs are provided.
Kirikiri Maximum Prison
The stories of some former death row inmates of Kirikiri maximum and minimum prison who are having a second chance to life are both inspiring and heartwarming. It is a story of men rising from the hopelessness of death sentence to becoming Masters Degree holders. PRAI has made unquantifiable impact in the lives of prisoners:
Moshood Oladipo an inmate of the maximum prison who was formerly on death row has become a Masters Degree holder right there in the prison. He told the story of how through the school established at the prison, he was able to first learn shoe making before proceeding to obtain his GCE and later enrolled at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) for his first degree and then Masters degree, despite awaiting his death.
The cheering news is that his release warrant was recently signed by the Oyo state government because of the academic pursuits and qualifications. He advised the inmate to be good influence to other inmates and be known for something good in the prison because that could aid their release. He advised those who don’t want to attend school to learn a vocational skill.
Another inmate who told his transformation story was the General Pastor of the Prison. He told the story of how he was detained in 2003 and condemned to death before and later commuted to life imprisonment. He appreciated the opportunity that was given to him to acquire both PGD and MSc. Degree at the Maximum Prison. He advised inmates that their aim of going to school shouldn’t be about the certificate but to acquire knowledge and be well equipped with skills.
The story of the catholic catechist of the prison is not less heartwarming. While appreciating PRAI and acknowledging the importance of education, he took the audience through his journey from Ikoyi prison where he wrote jamb, taught fellow inmates, learnt soap making and enrolled at the Open University where he is currently an undergraduate. He admonished inmates to take the step and start now, noting that if inmates are not reformed before being released they go outside to cause more problem. In his words “once I have my education, and I am out of the prison I can become a Special Adviser to the President on prison issues, based on my knowledge of the prison system and the reformation I have gone through.” He concluded by saying that the prison should be reformatory and not defamatory.
The head teacher of the maximum prison school thanked the representatives of PRAI noting that they are the instrument used by God to change lives. He highlighted the challenges facing the school to include; rehabilitation of the school structure which is always leaking during rainfall, financial support for the inmates who are teachers in the school as well as books, markers, pens, boards etc.
Kirikiri Medium Prison
At the minimum prison also in Kirikiri the story was also that of hope and inspiration.
The principal of the school while speaking to PRAI Volunteers, highlighted the needs of the school to include; computers for their computer school, markers, books, other materials important for the running of the school. He noted that three inmates of the minimum prison are currently enrolled at NOUN.
An inmate, Mr. Oyeleye, appreciated PRAI and other Initiatives that are making impart in the lives of many inmates. He said that government hasn’t been looking at human capital development and investments programs and that the prison school needs a lift so that proper impartation can be made. He added that there should be a platform for empowerment and if the government can see all these, they would do a broader one.
Frank Mekwunye an inmate who is a beneficiary of PRAI’s pro bono legal services, who sounded very positive attributed his stay in prison to God’s divine direction. He said with the skills he has acquired as an inmate, the life he lived that got him to prison was nothing compared to what he has achieved while in prison. According to his story, “before I became an inmate I had no skill and had no knowledge but now I am a 200 level student in the Open University studying criminology”. Frank has also become a website designer and developer working with Onesimus Ventures, also a partners company with the prison service. Frank is also involved in the partnership with Covenant University, where they produce paint, soaps, hand wash, car wash. Speaking further he stated “we established business with Wema bank and have sold 5 cartons of soap to them, now I have no reason to go back to committing crime when I leave the prison”. He encouraged other inmates to take advantage of the school and workshops expressing his displeasure at the low turn out of inmates of inmates in the school and the workshops.
PRAI’s Director Mr. Adetola Kazeem, appreciated all attendees and encouraged inmates who indicated interest in studying to fulfill their promises by attending the school. He assured that PRAI would continue to strive to ensure adequate assistance is given to the inmates. He emphasized the need for the inmates to take interest in attending the school noting that help would be directed to those who are willing to attend school.
Other PRAI volunteers who were present at the event were Mr. Nathaniel Jamgbadi, Miss Nelly D, Miss Aramide Adedeji, Mrs. Yewande and Mr. Kehinde Ibrahim.
At the end of the program over 330 inmates were attended to by PRAI who distributed food items and other essentials to the inmates of both prisons.
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