Why I am Building New Prison In Imo – Okorocha
By Austin Echefu
Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha has said that his “administration is building a new prison” in Imo State because “The current prison is over populated and no more qualified to be called a prison.
“It places the state at risk with jail break. And we decided to build a new prison. Imo is low in crime. Our environment is clean and low crime rate is always found in clean environment”.
Governor Okorocha gave the hint when the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, and the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Prison decongestion, Justice U.I. Bello, visited him at the Government House Owerri, with other members of the Committee.
He disclosed that One Hundred and Seventy (170) prisoners of Imo State origin are waiting to be hanged noting that he would consider some factors, including the culture of the people of the State, before deciding to sign the death penalty of the individual culprits or not.
The Governor said that he would carefully look at the cases of those concerned and know whether signing for their death would serve any good purpose or not, considering the fact that Imo people are known for forgiveness.
“One Hundred and Seventy Imo people have been condemned to death. We shall take a decision. Whoever takes life should be ready for the consequences, but we shall look at the issues especially from our cultural perspectives before taking action.
“Where forgiveness should be the case, we shall also know. It is going to be a holistic approach.
“With the setting up of the Committee for Prison decongestion it means President Muhammadu Buhari has been doing special things, including the Agricultural Revolution, the N-Power, and now the Prison decongestion.
“These are wonderful innovations by the President. This is the first time a government at the centre is taking steps to see our prisons decongested”, he said
Governor Okorocha further said: “We have taken up the battle against illicit drugs and the awareness is high. We must discourage these practices that encourage crimes.
“Imo State government would partner with the committee to achieve the purpose for which the President set it up.
“Imprisonment should be a corrective measure and not perpetual condemnation”.
But speaking during the visit, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Mr. Abubakar, said that the purpose of their visit was to review the cases of inmates in the prisons and know those with minor offences and penalties, like payment of fines, disclosing that the Governor has paid a huge sum for the inmates that have fines to pay to regain their freedom.
The AGF added that the committee started at the Federal Capital Territory and got 128 inmates released; went to Kaduna and got 500 inmates freed, and then to Kano where 800 inmates were also released.
He observed that they came to Imo for the same purpose, stressing that Imo records the least inmates as result of the State’s low rate of crime.
He said: “Another area of concern is the awaiting trial inmates. About 70 percent of the prison inmates are awaiting trials. Governments at all levels should work in synergy. We are going to review all the cases to properly situate the inmates”.
Chairman of the Committee and Chief Judge of FCT High Court, Justice Bello, who also spoke said that some of the inmates have even stayed in prison more than they would have served if convicted, noting that those who have stayed in prison beyond approved terms should be allowed to go.