Posted by News Express | 28 December 2018 | 4,873 times
Tunde Ladipo is the Controller of Prisons, Lagos State Command. In this interview with SUNNY OKIM, he talks about his challenges and his supervising role over the five prisons located in Lagos State viz: Ikoyi Prison, Kirikiri Maximum Prison, Kirikiri Medium Prison, Kirikiri Female Prison and Badagry Prison.
News Express: As the controller of the five prisons located in Lagos, you must have specific goals and targets. Do you think you have met those targets?
Tunde Ladipo: Yea, as you’ve rightly mentioned, you must have targets as well as challenges. The good thing about it is that some of the targets are targets that are attainable. For example it is a for us to ensure that there’s peace and order in all prisons in Lagos Command which include the Kirikiri Prisons, the Ikoyi Prison and the Badagry Prison. And also that there are no riot or jailbreak incidents.
This has been possible because of the commitment of the officers in charge of these prisons. We also do our best to ensure that all inmates are due to go to court to do so as and when due. The Controller-General of Nigerian Prison Services has a passion for the job. Logistics used to be a problem in the past but it isn't anymore. All credit to his hard work. He gave us escort vehicles and other mobility vehicles.
Of course, we still have congestion problems, but we’ve made sure that the Ministry of Justice comes in to assist us with jail delivery. The Chief Judge from time to time goes round all the prisons to grant amnesty. And the executive governor of Lagos State also does that. This has been one of the targets met.
Apart from granting amnesty, do you face such problem as delay in dispense of justice which results in prison congestion, or do you have enough facilities to contend?
Of course, facilities are over stretched. It is not because the judiciary is not doing its work. You know, the more the population, the more criminals you get. And Lagos being a cosmopolitan city has its challenges. And that is why there is the overcrowding in prisons. However, the Prison Service and the Ministry of Justice are doing their best to deal with this.
But the problem has always been that the number of inmates awaiting trial is far above the inmates who have actually been convicted. Where do you trace that to?
Yes, ehn, the courts are trying their best but the problem however still remains. And the government is also concerned. The Federal Government actually spends a lot of money to fees inmates. And when facilities are overstretched, we now talk of water, accommodation and sewage disposal. Therefore, the government as well is not comfortable. But they are also trying their best to ensure that prisons are depopulated. That's the reason the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari, set up a presidential committee on amnesty and decongestion of the prisons.
The way you talk sounds like the inmates are well taken care of and therefore are so comfortable that the there is peace all year round in the prisons and nothing like complaints from them?
So far so good, they are human beings and we treat them like human beings. If they are treated otherwise, they would definitely react. We understand the problems they face and they understand that which we face as well. We are taking good care of them. That’s why we are trying to reform them through educational programmes and skill acquisition as well as moral reformation. So that by the time they get out of prison, they will be useful to themselves and the society.
How much of the reformation have you done and in what specific ways?
We have done so much and achieved so much. The Controller-General is a man with passion and zeal for inmates’ reformation. And he has given instructions that inmates should be trained be made skilful. For example, on all our prisons, inmates are trained as tailors, bakers, paint producers, fish farmers, athletes and footballers, to mention a few. Even educationally, from primary education to secondary to university and even PhD. We have one of our inmates running his doctorate right now. We had 157 inmates sit for last GCE. So the aim is to build them so that when they are released finally, they earn a certificate.
And they earn these qualifications and keep them inside prisons?
Is it not better to have it than not have anything at all so that going to prison won’t be a waste? Somebody spends 10, 15 years in prison and comes out with a Master’s degree; isn’t he better than those outside who have the time, opportunity and resources, yet can’t get to that level? So, they’re better off.
Can you put a figure to the graduates you have produced since you came to office?
Quite a number of them but I cannot put a figure because every year, we have graduates. But this year alone, we’ve produced five Master's degree holders. And we currently have two on enrollment in PhD. In Lagos State Command alone, we have well over 100 undergraduates. And one of them with the Master's degree came first of all over the federation.
Contrary to your claims, some pictures of the inmates we see outside show how malnourished and unhealthy they are in here?
Those are old graphics and images, not recent pictures. I’m sure if you see them now, you’ll ask if they are inmates. Some of them are looking even more robust than you (laughter). If you don’t mind, I could take you round the prisons. We feed them very well.
What is the cost of the feeding?
Let’s not go to that but we are feeding them well. Other organisations are assisting us.
There have been stories of female inmates getting pregnant. Who impregnates them?
There is no inmate that is female that gets impregnated in the prison. Nigerians like to say things they don’t know. All officers in the female prison are women. So that story has no basis. We’ve heard the stories too. These are things people say. We make them undergo pregnancy tests regularly. On the other hand, at point of accepting any female as inmate here, the very first thing we do is pregnancy test. That determined, they are handed over to the prison officials who are female as well. So tell me, where will the pregnancy come from? It’s not just possible, they are fairy tales.
Some public servants are not transparent in the course of their duties. Would you say you and your officers are free from this?
The government is fighting corruption. Whoever is found wanting would be tried and jailed. But you can’t jail anyone unless a case is proven.
You are in charge of people in here; what’s your advice to people out there?
Well, there’s no way some of them will not end up here because the society is not static. It is dynamic. The more you have people out there, the more tendency for them to join us here. But when they come here, what we now do is to try our best to reform them.
What about cases where innocent people are brought here?
Well, in the course of crime investigation, questions will be asked. Innocent names could be mentioned as a kind of cover up. There are also victims of circumstances that walk into the scene of the crime immediately after it had been carried out. It is now left for the court to judge who’s innocent and guilty. So all of them are not guilty until proven otherwise.
With your vast working experience, what advice do you have for people out there concerning these cases of being victims of circumstance?
Be law-abiding. Do not live above your means. Have the fear of God and do what is right. Nigerian Prison Service is a better prison service now with a Controller-General who wants to take the service to the next level. That’s why UNESCO recently awarded the prison service in Paris for illiteracy eradication.
(This interview was first published in the special 6th anniversary print edition of News Express magazine)
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