ENUGU based non-governmental and human rights organisation, Carmelite Prisoners’ Interest Organisation (CAPIO), yesterday, paid a visit to Nigeria Correctional Service, Awka, in continuation of their tour towards helping inmates and returnee citizens in various correctional centers in Nigeria.
The team of five, led by the Executive Director of CAPIO, Rev. Fr. Ambrose Ekeroku (OCD), alongside, some members, including the programme officer, Chukwunwike Nwangwu, clinical psychologist, Dr. Clara Innoeze, the research Officer, Mr. Micheal Ukwuma and the Communications Officer, Mr. Chukwuanu Okoli, donated cartons of medical hand gloves,10 gallons of hand sanitisers, 10 gallons of liquid soap, two hand held infrared thermometers, 50 packets of Vitamin C, drug envelopes, 25 tins Chloroquine tablets and Zinc minerals for clinical use, among other items.
In his speech while receiving the team, the Officer in charge of Awka Custodial Center, Deputy Comptroller of Corrections (DCC), Mr. Edwin Akabueze, thanked the organisation for remembering the center, adding that part of the items brought will be distributed to Nnewi, Onitsha and Ekwulobia centers.
Shortly before the handover of the items, Rev. Fr. Ekeroku sensitised the inmates and officers on the importance of adhering to all health safety measures against contracting or transmitting coronavirus and other infectious diseases like Lassa fever and yellow fever, which are on outbreak in some parts of the country.
Fr. Ekeroku noted that the organisation, during the early phase of COVID- 19, was able to gather resources to intervene in the Federal Capital Territory, Enugu State and Ebonyi State Commands of Nigeria Correctional Service and in continuation of the nationwide tour, got some support from Irish Embassy in Nigeria to reach out to other places like Anambra and Abia , pointing out that the visits would help the inmates to cushion the effect of the coronavirus pandemic.
“A lot of people believe that COVID-19 doesn’t exist, but we hear in the news and know that people are still contracting and dying of the virus. Even overseas, people are dying in hundreds, thousands and people still don’t believe. We don’t have to take it for granted by not protecting ourselves. When we are told wash our hands, use hand sanitisers and face masks, it is not for anybody’s good but rather, for ourselves”.
The Executive Director of CAPIO, while pointing out some challenges faced in enforcing criminal justice law which includes people’s unawareness of the implementation of the law, need for continuous training and retraining not just key justice institutions but also general public, reiterated that CAPIO in its unflinching efforts will keep advocating on issues of reforms in criminal and prison sectors, just as they contributed to the new Correctional Service Act and other reform initiatives.
He admonished the inmates to live in peace and harmony, adding that the organisation is currently building a rehabitation center in Oji, as a way of developing and equipping returnee citizens from prisons with skills to be useful to themselves and in the society.
Responding, the Comptroller of NFC, Awka, Mr. Emmanuel Nwakeze, represented by the DCC incharge of Medical Service, Dr. Frank Uzo assured that the provisions will be used judiciously, noting that there haven’t been any recorded case of the virus as the authority are up and doing to make sure that all inmates are safe.
“We all know that prevention is better than cure. What they have brought here is what we actually needed. We appealed to the Chief Judge to come and help decongest the place and he is currently going round in all our facilities in the state. These are efforts being made by government to reduce the population of the inmates to the barest minimum. He has directed courts to start cases of people who have stayed for long.”