New Telegraph

Agony Of Ex-convicts: Before our release our wives have remarried, become pregnant

How we found ourselves in prison women, who were fortunate to have come out from Nigerian prisons, have narrated how they found their way into the prison and their ordeal while inside and after their release.

One of them, Mr. Mayowa Akande, recalled how his journey to prison started. According to him, his friend diverted his boss’s money into his account, and this landed Akande in trouble. He recalled that his friend was arrested for the fraud and quickly mentioned Akande’s name as an accomplice.

Akande said that he was shocked following his arrest, especially since he had never been arrested before, let alone go to a police station. He narrated: “The money in question was N2.5 million. This, my friend, was in Ilorin, Kwara State, while I was in Lagos State. He told me that he wanted to send money into my account. I knew him when we both working with the for- mer Inspector General of Police, Musiliu Smith as drivers.

“It is good to be closer to God. Back then I didn’t used to go to church. What we always do then was to drink and smoke. I was sent to Kirikiri Maximum Correctional Centre. I spent eight years there. I went there in 2015 and came out in Janu- ary 2023 through amnesty and the assistance of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) Prison Ministry.”

Akande narrated his prison ordeal during a conference, with the theme, Wonders of Freedom, organised by RCCG Prison and Hospital Ministry. The conference is the 2023 version. Purpose of the ministry The Chairman of the RCCG Prison and Hospi- tal Ministry, Pastor Ariyo Popoola, explained the importance and significance of the conference.

His words: “The purpose is to look at the prob- lems of prison decongestion, the role of the police, the rights of the inmates, welfare, and post-prison rehabilitation. There is also discussion on the health and welfare of caregivers.” How I was arrested Akande, continuing with his story, said that after his friend stopped working for the IGP in Lagos, he called him one fateful day to say he was returning to Ilorin.

Akande narrated: “He said he would call me to ask if I had seen people that he sent to me. I told him I had not seen anyone. I told him I was going to Ijebu-Ode to see my wife. “He then said I should come and see him at Mo- bil Filling Station, which was close to Lagos State Secretariat. He said that he wanted to eat some- where in that area and that I should meet him. I left home to meet him at the venue as agreed. That was how I was arrested by Operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).

“Right from the point of my arrest, I was taken to DSS’s office at Shangisha and then moved to court and from court and then to prison. This hap- pened within two days. I was unable to see my wife, children, and my mother. It was not until after three years that I was able to reach my family. “By then my wife had remarried and taken my children to her new husband’s home. My mother then tried to get me out but had to stop because she ran out of money.”

Akande remembered earnestly pleading with the DSS Operatives to take him to his boss’s house so that the boss could speak on his behalf, but they would not have such. “For two years, I was just sleeping and waking in prison without being taken to court. After a while, I decided to learn how to become a shoe cobbler. There are inmates in the prison who have spent 12, 14, 18 years and above. It was one of them who taught me how to make shoes and he has spent 24 years in prison,” recounted Akande.

When he was newly imprisoned, he used to get sick because of the food, water, and environment, he said. It took him years be- fore he could tell his mother that he was in prison, because his siblings were still young, and he did not know how to reach out and broke such heart-shattering news. He said: “It was when some church members came for evangelism, that I sent one of them to my younger brother, to inform him about my situation.

Whenever I tried to as- sist some rich men in the prison, to wash their clothes, they always tell me that I was old, that they can’t give me their clothes to wash. “It was the shoe-cobbling work that helped me. I usually pick fairly used soles from the dustbin and then rebuild and resell them to the inmates. I have a warder that used to help me to buy dye, which I used for the shoes. That was how I was making little money to take care of myself in prison. “I started eating better food and changed my torn clothes.

Through the shoe-making business, I became popular. I and the yard master became close friends. Sometimes, I used to go to the office of the senior boss to fix their shoes for them. “Since I was brought into the prison, my prayer always was to receive the mercy of God, that grace will see out of that prison. It was the Redeemed Christian Church of God Prison Ministry that eventually facilitated my release from the prison and set me free from prison after eight years of suffering.”

A friend I stood surety for took me to prison The second released inmate, 46 years old Oluwole Adebayo, was a furniture maker be- fore he went to prison. Narrating the genesis of his travail, Ade- bayo said a client hired his friend, who is also a furniture maker to roof his house. Adebayo explained that was not the first time he would be standing as surety for his friend.

He said: “Instead of my friend using the money he collected from his client for the roofing of the house, he spent it and ran away. “The client initially didn’t want to pay all the money at once, but because I stood surety, he decided to pay everything. When my friend ran away, the client was angry and went to report the matter at Police Station. “I called the client and pleaded with him to exercise patience. The client agreed, but my friend refused to pick up his calls. The client waited for my friend to come and finish the work due to my pleading, but he didn’t.

“I went to the police station where the matter was lodged. I was asked to write a statement. The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of the station, came out of his office and ordered that his men should not allow me to go. This was happening at Agbado Police Station. I waited till the following day, and I begged them the call the client. When the client came, he told the policemen to allow me to go, so I could go and locate my friend and hopefully bring him. At about 20 minutes after the client’s words, police brought a bus and moved me to court. This happened in 2021. I then told one of their senior officers that the client, who was the complainant said they should leave me to go and look for my friend. “The policeman told me that they did not have time to be investigating my case and preferred to charge it to court. That was how I was taken before a magistrate court in Janu- ary and convicted in March 2021 and that was how I found myself in Ilaro Prison. I was released on 14th of March 2023.” Adebayo said that since his return from prison, the friend whom he stood surety for, had not been seen. He added: “It is one of the members of the prison ministry that had been assisting me. Where to stay now is a problem. I don’t have anywhere. My family and home have broken. My wife has gone with another man, along with my children. The last time I saw her, she was pregnant. But I know I will get my children back. All my tools had rusted. I want people to use my case as an example not to stand surety for anyone. “Whoever gives me a job now, before such a person pays me, we will have a written agreement about the payment. I can never stand surety for my blood brother or sister!”

He said that he was shocked to discover after getting into prison, that most inmates were innocent of the crimes. He said: “I met an inmate, who simply be- cause he works in a rich man’s house and a coconut fell from one of the trees in the rich man’s house, and he eats it, he was arrested and charged to court and then moved to prison. That man is still in prison to date “Another inmate is a cook, who cut sugar cane stick and eat it. He was arrested and charged to court. He was given four years imprisonment for cutting a sugar stick and eating it. There are a lot of underage girls in Ilaro prison. “A lot of inmates are dying daily inside that prison. There was a day we were sleeping, and one of the inmates didn’t know he was sleeping beside a corpse. The man had died in the night. “Between 150 to 200 inmates sleep in small a cell. When you wake up the following day, you will not be able to stand up. There are a lot of sicknesses and diseases in prison. We all use one toilet and bathroom. Whoever has a fam- ily there should always check on them. Many inmates are dying of depression.” Controller’s reaction The Controller of Correctional Service, La- gos Command Service, Reverend Ben-Rabbi Freedman, was represented by the Deputy Controller of Correctional Service in charge of Welfare Lagos Command, Mrs. C.I Obioso Okonkwo. The Assist Commissioner of Police, Taiwo Kasumu and Area Commander Agodi Police Station were at the conference. Pastor Olumide Ibode, Medical Director, Redeemers Health Centre.

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