people who throng the Owerri Prisons in the Imo State capital to visit their relatives are now forced to pay N400 before they could be allowed to see them.
This was even as inmates who desire to have a cozy cell at the G-ward are required to cough out the sum of N30,000 especially for new inmates, while those who are already staying at the cell pay N10,000 monthly to retain their cells, regardless of the offence of the inmate.
Newsmen reliably learnt that a very senior official of Owerri Prisons allegedly imposed the N400 fee. To ensure that his instruction was duly carried out, he allegedly put a female officer, who is in charge of receiving visitors at the entrance of the prisons.
It was also learnt that a member of the armed squad within the prison had the additional responsibility of raising N7,000 on daily basis from the visitors to the inmates.
Newsmen reliably gathered that as a result of the current anomaly, where inmates who could afford the monthly payments of N10,000 at the G-ward section of the prison have become unruly and no longer accord respect to the warders, or obey their instructions. Rather they do what pleases them.
One of the prison warders who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Newsmen that the activities of the very senior official has demoralized the subordinate officers of the command as they are now being looked down upon by the inmates, who now see themselves as lords of the manor because of the money they pay monthly to the very senior official.
His words: “Can you imagine that inmates especially those who are staying at the G- ward cells which is the best of the cells in the Prisons no longer obey the instructions of prison warders because they pay the ….(designation withheld by Newsmen) N10,000 every month after the initial payment of N30,000 for the allocation of the cell. In fact it is the detainees who now report warders to the (….) if they are reprimanded by any of the warders. It is that bad.”
Another officer who also did not want his name in print said that the new State Comptroller posted to Imo State, Mr.Aloy Uchenwa, who resumed duties in the state last month is not aware of the activities of the very senior official.
According to him the former State Comptroller of Imo Prisons, Reverend Cannon Isaiah Amaliri had a running battle with the very senior official at the centre of the fraud over the issue of extortion and was able to curtail it before he was transferred to Enugu State. The aggrieved officer said that the corrupt practice going on at Owerri Prison flies in the face of the Change Agenda of the Muhammadu Buhari administration and urged the new Comptroller General of Prisons, Mr. Ja’Afaru Ahmed and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission to look into the matter and redeem the image of the Nigerian Prisons Service.
However, when contacted the Acting Public Relations Officer of the Imo State Prisons Command, Mr. Onyike Promise, debunked the allegations and said that visitors were not charged any fees. He added that inmates do not pay for any cell, whether cozy or not.
His words: “It is not true that visitors to the prisons are charged any money. If you come to the Prison, you will see it written boldly that visits are free and so it not true. Again, prison cells are also free and no inmate is charged a dime to be allocated to any cell. That is the much I know and that has been the rule in all prisons in Nigeria.”