Stop Stigmatizing, Discriminating Against Freed Inmates, NCS Controller Tells Nigerians

By Tony Adibe

Nigerians, particularly those resident in Enugu State have been advised to stop stigmatizing, and discriminating against freed inmates of Nigerian Correctional Services (NCoS) to enable them to reintegrate very well in the society.

The Controller, Enugu State Command of the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCoS), Nicholas Obiako, who gave the advice, said the advice became necessary in view of the negative mindset people have towards such former inmates, insisting that Nigerians should develop a positive attitude towards freed inmates as they are fellow citizens.

Obiako said people should see such individuals (freed inmates) as changed persons released to the society, rather than keep stigmatizing and discriminating against them.

Controller Obiako stated this when a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Free At Last Nigeria Prison Ministry (FALNPM), led by its leader, the USA-based Rev. Afam Ikanih, visited the Enugu Custodian Centre to donate some consumable items to the Centre.

Represented on the occasion by the Deputy Controller of Corrections, in-charge of Enugu Custodian Centre, Mr. Usifo E. Joseph, who received Ikanih and his group in his office, Obiako also observed that “many freed inmates faced a second phase of imprisonment and rejection at home and society at large.”

He bemoaned the fact that many of them were being discriminated against and denied an opportunity to work as citizens of Nigeria, and advised people to start changing their negative mindset on such fellow Nigerians.

“This is why we want them to get skills before leaving the centre. By stigmatizing them means we want them to commit another crime so they can come back where they have free food, accommodation, and security,” he said.

According to him, the Enugu Custodian Centre built during the British colonial era with the capacity of 638 inmates now shelters a total of 2, 434, inmates as at last week Friday December 9, 2022, making the centre highly congested and uninhabitable for living.

He further outlined some of the challenges affecting the Centre to include, over congestion and dilapidated amenities, stressing that challenge of water and toilet facilities also needed urgent attention.

The Controller, who made a passionate appeal to Nigerians with milk of human kindness to come to the rescue of the Centre in terms of provision of facilities, thanked Rev. Ikanih, for always being there for the Enugu Centre. He described the cleric as a great partner and supporter of inmates, and asked him to continue with the good work.

“I do not go for money, but you can pick a project and fix it. You have been touching lives but here is the best place to touch lives. The people here are not the real criminals in the society, but l am happy that you are into this kind of humanitarian services,” said Obiako, who also appealed to other Nigerians to emulate the Reverend.

Responding, Rev Ikanih, said he was excited about what Controller Obiako said about the Centre, and emphasised the need for “people to always show those in the Centre love as “they are still our brothers and sisters and should not be treated as animals or be called inmates.”

Citing the situation in the USA, Rev. Ikanih said in America, “they do not call them inmates but residents and are treated as such.”

Ikanih, who is the Chaplain, Milwaukee County House of Corrections, Franklin Wisconsin, USA, announced that he needed a space to put in place a printing press at the Enugu Custodian Centre.

He said: “I have the machines on ground so the inmates can learn how to design banners and other printing works that will make them productive after serving their jail terms. Part of the profits generated will be used to execute projects in other correctional centres in the state.”

He said that “This is to replicate what we are doing at Milwaukee County House of Corrections with the resources we have”

The cleric explained that he decided to embark on the humanitarian gesture in Enugu because he was born in the state.

Ikanih observed that in Enugu Custodian Centre there were many hopeless residents (inmates) that community abandoned,” adding that: “We have come to fill that gap.”

The Reverend urged Nigerians to always see freed inmates as their neighbours and family and shun any form of stigmatisation against them.

Rev. Ikanih, who hails from Oji River Local Government Area of Enugu State, SouthEast Zone of Nigeria, was during the visit taken round various skilled acquisition centres in the Custodian Centre by the Deputy Controller of Corrections, Mr Usifo.

NewsBits reports that some of the workshops visited included, the Carpentry, Upholstery, Tailoring and Artistry, while Rev Ikanih promised to support the various departments with modern tools and equipment.

Rev. Ikanih, had also during the visit donated assorted foot wears and sanitary materials such as hypo detergent, toothbrush, among other items to the Centre. NewsBits also reports that there was presentation of a Certificate of Appreciation to Rev. Ikanih, by the Centre.

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