A Visit to Prison Formations in Kirikiri, Lagos
Let me begin by admitting the fact that before now, I had never been in Lagos. So, I had no idea of how Kirikiri or any other part of Lagos city look like. The closest I have come to Lagos was my visit to Ibadan city, Oyo State, during my NYSC days about 12 years ago. When I finally visited Lagos some weeks ago, my mind was filled with so many thoughts that I will have loved to share with you. Talking about whether or not my expectations of Lagos have been met, the impression I now have for the city and perhaps my reservations too on certain things I saw. But all these will be a topic for another day.
Meanwhile, the impression I had about Kirikiri was that of a Prison. A fortified Prison facility that locks hardened criminals as well as political prisoners. Names like that of Major Hamza Al-mustapha, Chief Bode George, Shehu Yar’adua and the rest of them readily come to mind as having passed through this Prison at a point in time. Before now, each time I heard about Kirikiri, it only reminds me of the days of the military regime. During that period, we often hear about convicted criminals and coup plotters being tied to poles or drums outside the prison and publicly executed by military firing squads. However, my visit to the area recently has taught me that Kirikiri is not just a prison facility but a big residential settlement in Apapa, Lagos State. I have also got to know that there are three prison facilities situated in a secured area of Kirikiri which include; the famous Maximum Security, Medium Security and Kirikiri Female Prisons. Other Prison formations in Kirikiri include the Prison Training College, Prisons Cottage Industry and K9 unit (Dog section), all owned and managed by the Nigerian Prisons Service.
MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON, KIRIKIRI.
Established in 1955 with an initial capacity of 1056, the Maximum Security Prison, Kirikiri, doesn’t seem to look like that notorious facility I have always thought about. I found it rather to be a prison facility with unique features and with a difference. It appears to be the only Maximum Security Prison that I know that is exclusively male dominated without a female wing. The prison has all the correctional facilities that are needed for the reformation of prisoners and reintegrating them back to the society as better citizens. There are functional skill acquisition centres like carpentry workshop, tailoring, knitting, laundry services, Classes for educational pursuit, befitting Chaplain and a mosque, hospital, ICT centre, standard football pitch, lawn tennis court, indoor sport hall and so many other things that tell a first time visitor that this is indeed a correctional centre. As it is now, the prison gives you the impression that gone are the days of the military, even though the infamous shooting range and the gallows are still visibly present in the prison.
One thing that impressed me the most in the prison was the biogas technology facility we met in the prison. We were told that this facility converts sewage and human wastes to generate heat for cooking. It pleases me that the Prison is said to have four of the biogas facilities although, only one was functional as at the time we visited. Be that as it may, this technology is certainly a positive development. If managed well, it will go a long way in conserving the huge resources government spends in providing cooking gas or firewood, as the case may be, for feeding of inmates. Good enough, the raw materials needed for the biogas digester to function well is readily available in all the nation’s prisons. I learnt that there used to be a similar facility in Zaria Prison but it is not functioning now. Replicating similar technology in all the main prisons in the country will be of great benefit and will ease cost.
One other thing that gladdened my heart in the Maximum Security Prison, Kirikiri was coming in contact with those inmates I have long read about their commitment towards furthering their education from the Prison. I saw the inmate that is said to be pursuing his doctorate degree. He looked not only reformed but spiritually so too as we met him leading some other spiritually reformed inmates in a baptism session where they were observing immersion baptism after giving their lives to Christ.
MEDIUM SECURITY PRISON
This is another prison facility located in Kirikiri. Built in 1958 and commissioned in 1968 with 1,700 initial capacity, the prison was as at the time we visited locking 3,833 inmates. Those convicted were 293 while the figure of Awaiting Trial Persons stood at 3530. The prison has 116 cells and 12 single cells.
Like the Maximum Security Prison, this Prison looks very spacious and has a serene environment. It has all the necessary sporting and correctional facilities. Inmates were seen busy in one form of activity or the other. Some of the inmates were seen playing football, some table tennis, draught, chess, ludo, traditional draught, etc. Some were attending moral lessons in the chaplaincy while some were praying in a mosque. In fact, there seem to be no dull moment among the prison inmates. The staff were also up and doing making sure that all was moving well in the prison. It was a beehive of activities at the welfare section and the record Office as we met staff attending to the needs as well as complaints of the inmates who lined up in a long queue with each of them waiting for his turn to reach the desk officers assigned for the job. But one thing got me thinking: the staff strength of the prison. I cannot imagine how only 161 staff were able to man a prison with close to 4,000 inmates. Without being told, you know the staff are doing a very daunting task. Such a task that only staff with zeal and determination can deliver.
KIRIKIRI FEMALE PRISON
Left to me, this is the most beautiful of all the three prison facilities in Kirikiri. It has good looking structures with a carefully landscaped garden within its vicinity. Beautiful quotes and wise sayings from renowned philosophers and world leaders adorn the inner walls of the Prison. Built in 1963 with initial capacity of 211, its open out as at the time we visited was 318. The prison is exclusively for female inmates. Which means the staff also are mainly Prisons female officers. Before now, it used to be the only female prison in the country. But in 2017, another one was built in Numan, Adamawa State.
As expected, we met the female inmates busy in their various vocational workshops; some in the tailoring workshop, some knitting, while some engaging in beads making. The mouthwatering aroma oozing from the Catering Services of the prison notified us that we are in the Catering unit where we met the ladies preparing different kinds of dishes as part of skill acquisition for effective reformation.
It was indeed an awesome experience for me visiting Kirikiri that is a hub of prison formations. My visit was adventurous and quite educative. One of the quotes in Kirikiri Female Prison by Benjamin Franklin reads thus: “Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbor and let each new year find you a better man.” This is a food for thought for you from my visit to Kirikiri.
DSP ADAM ABUBAKAR JIBRIN
CPRO Nigeria Prison Service Bauchi
Writes from Prison Training College, Lagos.