•In an age of insecurity, it is strange that a Boko Haram inmate possesses 25 cell phones
Reasons adduced for the riot that broke out at the Kuje Prisons, Abuja, on Monday suggested that there are more to frequent protests by inmates than Nigerians know. We have always complained about the irregular and poor feeding in the prisons; we have had cause to complain about congestion in the prisons; we have condemned the inadequate medical facilities that had led to the death of some of the prisoners, we have written on the plight of awaiting trial inmates, among others, all of which had led to protests in prisons across the country at one time or the other.
But now, we have been told that some warders even collude with inmates to bring in all kinds of items, including prohibited ones, into the prisons. According to a newspaper report, Monday’s violence was caused by the resistance of some inmates to allow warders search their cells for prohibited items, as ordered by the prison authorities.
The report said “The incident happened this (Monday) morning. The warders, who were acting on instructions from the prison authorities, decided to search the cells and seize prohibited items. During the search, they found 25 handsets with a Boko Haram suspect. After a search of the convicts’ cells, they moved to the awaiting-trial cells. But those men, who saw the warders approaching with some ‘already’ seized items, decided to resist them. They attacked the warders with stones and every object they could lay their hands on, and in the process, many of the warders were injured.” The report even said that substances suspected to be cannabis were found in some of the cells and were confiscated.
Apparently, the inmates resisted the search because it was some of the warders who assisted in bringing in the prohibited items in the first place. The report added, “The rot in the Nigerian Prisons Service is serious. The prohibited items that the warders wanted to seize were brought into the yard by the same warders. The inmates had been enjoying this privilege through trafficking by the warders. It is only natural that they will fight back, and it is a bad trend for the prisons service.”
We cannot agree less. This is bad for our prisons, indeed. Imagine the case of the Boko Haram suspect reportedly caught with 25 mobile phone sets. The logical question we would have asked is the place of intelligence in a situation where an inmate would have access to 25 mobile phone sets but that question beggars an answer because that answer has already been provided: warders are complicit in the arrangement. It is bad enough that a high-profile suspect had access to such a large number of telephone sets in prison; and who knows the kind of communication that would have been going on between him and his colleagues outside.
Although the lapses in the prisons are only a reflection of the general laxity in the country’s public service, we call for a thorough investigation of the alleged malfeasance by the prison warders. If our prisons are this porous, then no one is safe. As a matter of fact, this type of collusion between prisoners and warders might also have accounted for the frequent jailbreaks and attempted jailbreaks in our prisons.
We are aware that the prison authorities have had cause to carry out disciplinary actions against some warders for all manner of offences, ranging from smuggling of alcoholic drinks into the prisons to alleged complicity in jailbreaks, but it seems dismissal and suspension have not served as enough deterrence; hence, we suggest the prosecution of those of them whose offences bordered on crimes.
In the meantime, the Federal Government should address the challenges in our prisons, including the welfare of warders. This is one sure way of ensuring that prisoners serve their sentences in a conducive atmosphere and hence reduce the incentive for jailbreaks and abominable relationships between inmates and prisoners.