By Amos Igbebe
Prisoners awaiting trial in Kwale Prison in Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State are crying for justice as many have been in prison custody for over nine years while awaiting trials for crimes which many say they have not been convicted but landed them in detention.
Our correspondent, who visited the prison in company of Delta youths under the aegis of Coalition of Ndokwa Peace Ambassadors (CONPA), led by Alex Uboh, reports that many of the inmates had been in custody between six to ten years while they are awaiting trial of their cases in the courts. They are accusing the Nigerian judiciary of unjustly delaying their trial, saying the judicial system has not been fair to them.
They wonder why a citizen of Nigeria would be in prison awaiting trial for as long as nine years without the case being tried and justice done, if convicted, the prison sentence begins. One of them said his lawyers had said that bail is a right of suspects but decried the injustice of the Nigerian judiciary. Many told our correspondent that they do not know when their cases would be called and to appear before the courts for trial.
As our correspondent related with the prisoners, he could see wasted years written on their faces as many said they’ve wasted their productive years in prison while their peers in the outside world are busy making waves in their various life chosen endeavours.
Though the prison authorities did not allow our reporter who spoke with many of them to probe into the crime that brought them to detention not even a mention of their names, our reporter could deduce from their appearance the pains and frustration written on their faces as they spoke out their minds.
The Kwale Prison Controller, Assistant Controller of Prisons, Innocent Odozulu, had told our correspondent never to ask for their names nor the crime that brought them to the prison not even take photographs of the inmates as he spoke with them. Our reporter had to comply to avoid embarrassment and possible confiscation of his recording equipment.
It was even tense getting into the prison as our reporter’s phones, recorders were initially collected by the police officers who were at the entrance but with the intervention of the Prison Controller, ACP Innocent Odozulu, our recording equipment were allowed in but under strict supervision from the distance.
Even during the interaction with the inmates, two officials were closely monitoring the process so that our reporter does not go beyond the permission granted by the prison authorities.
Our correspondent discovered that all the prisoners were youths of between 15 and 30 years and also only males without a single female in the prison custody. But it was later discovered that females are never allowed into the location of males.
One of the prisoners, who was not allowed to disclose his name, said the government should look into the long period of awaiting trial inmates in the prison, disclosing that it is painful for inmates to be in detention for over 9 years while awaiting trials.
He said “this is not a place to stay not even for one second not to talk of many years. Like me, I’ve stayed here for over 9 years not knowing when I will leave this place. There are many talented youths and skills here wasting away in this prison. When you see all these people here, you will think they are all criminals whereas many were brought here with crimes they never committed in their lives. They are here because there is nobody to fight for them and they have spent many years waiting for justice but not forth coming.
“The legal system in Nigeria, especially in Delta State, is not helping matters. The way cases are being handled is taking too long. Up till now my case is still on trial, I don’t know when I will be called to go to the court. So many talented and gifted youths are dying away in the prison here. Amnesty could be giving to them or be given skills training, instead of wasting away in the prison. The welfare system is also very poor”.
He added that “we are shut out of communication, we don’t know what obtains in the outside world. We are restricted to this confinement, our movement is restricted. We are locked up in this place, no free movement and we don’t know when we will leave this place”.
Another who also was not allowed to mention his name, said “like me I’m in my 6th year in this prison still awaiting trial. For the period we are here, we can learn trades so that when we leave here we can be useful to society outside and ourselves.
“Our feeding system is very poor here, if you don’t have somebody that brings food for you, hunger will finish you. The prison authorities know this, so they allow our people to bring food for us so that we don’t die of hunger”.
Another youth said “I have been here now for 9 years. Many of us have wasted our years in Kwale prison. The life in the prison is very bad. There is no good life in Kwale prison. The suffering is too much here. Every day is suffering. We sit from morning till night doing nothing and thinking of nothing reasonable. Yet life is pining away and years are just passing.
“Some of us were doing hand work before we were arrested and brought here but now those ones have been lost and forgotten. Like me now, I’ve got white beards in this prison. It will be good if government will grant us bail so that we can be coming from home to the court until the case is decided”.
When approached for comment, Controller of the Prison, ACP Innocent Odozulu, declined to comment, but unknowingly said many of the prisoners are dying out of frustration and delay in trying their cases in the courts.
President of Coalition of Ndokwa Peace Ambassadors (CONPA), Alex Chukwuka Uboh, said the aim of their visit was to celebrate World Peace Day with the inmates. He said “in the visit, we did seminar and praise worship with them. They even led the praise worship session. We also played novelty match with them and they won with 2-0.” This made them very happy and there was jubilation in the camp. They danced, drummed and made merriments. The prison authorities were very pleased with them and invited them for more events.
Uboh said CONPA visited the prison to identify with the inmates as part of world peace day celebration. He said it was part of the group’s objective of fostering social progress, protecting the environment and creating a more just, stable, egalitarian society and peaceful world.
The august visit which took the youths of Ndokwa extraction in Delta State, according to Uboh, was also to build partnership for peace as a mechanism for securing the dignity of human beings. According to him “the International Day of Peace points to the need to build alliances, synergies, partnerships and networks for peace, without which we are collectively vulnerable to violence, conflicts and disruptions that come with them”.
CONPA, which has been clamouring for peaceful co-existence among the people of Delta State and had toured various communities in Ndokwa land, said the 2015 world peace day was a unique one to residents of Ndokwa nation as it afforded the youths the opportunity for sober reflection on the series of crisis that had rocked the hitherto peaceful Ndokwa ethnic nationality.
As part of efforts to guarantee sustainable peace in Delta, Uboh said the state government under Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, should provide platform for peace by setting up peace building committees, encouraging Deltans to be peaceful in all their dealings and also roll out entrepreneurship programs for youths and women, maintaining that these are essential ingredients to building a prosperous and egalitarian society.
Prisoners Cry Out: We’ve Spent Over 9 Years Awaiting Trials in Delta Prison
By Amos Igbebe