© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Something ‘fishy’ is going on in Maiduguri Prison, state govt. officials affirm
OFFICIALS of the Borno State Government says there is “something fishy” going on in the Maiduguri Prison which the hierarchy of the Nigerian Prisons Service is trying to hide from the public.
This was made known by the Borno State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Kaka-Shehu Lawan, while presenting a report of an investigation into allegations of rape, sodomy, abortion and other crimes going on in the prison.
This is coming just days after Amnesty International (AI) released a report alleging that children and women were being sexually abused and violated in the Maiduguri Prison and at the Giwa Barracks, a military detention facility where suspected Boko Haram members are being held.
AI’s investigation was prompted by a report by Sahara Reporters, written by Charles Okah, the convicted mastermind of the October 1, 2010 bombing in Abuja. Okah is serving a life sentence in the Maiduguri Prison from where he wrote the report.
The report, among other things, claimed that some male children inmates were being kept in the same cells as adult prisoners who sodomise them on a regular basis and even use them to make money from other prisoners who want to sleep with them.
Following the report, Governor Kashim Shettima formed an investigative panel, headed by the state’s Attorney-General, Lawan, to look into the allegations and ascertain the true state of things. However, authorities of the prison refused to cooperate with the panel and would not allow them access into the prison.
Lawan said that after the committee was inaugurated, it commenced its assignment by paying a visit to the headquarters of the Borno Prisons Service to see the State Comptroller of Prisons.
“Unfortunately, upon arrival at the state headquarters of the NPS, we realised that the nominee of the NPS in our committee, DCP Ahmed Oduba, has been recalled without our knowledge. This was confirmed to us by the state comptroller himself. That was where the drama all began,” Lawan said.
He continued that after going through the documents the committee presented to him, the Controller “told us that his hands were tied (and) that he cannot take any decision at his level until he gets a clearance from the NPS headquarters Abuja”.
“Being a committee of highly experienced people, we came back to the Secretariat of the committee to officially write a letter to the Comptroller General of the NPS (Ja’afaru Ahmed), which was sent to him on the 29th of March, 2019. Another reminder letter was sent to him on the 4th of April, 2019, still asking him to grant this committee access to the prisons in order to carry out its investigation,” Lawan continued.
“We also reminded the CGP that the governor of the state is the chief security officer of the state and has the right to show concern over any security situation that may erupt in the state. And we also reminded him that the NPS is part of the membership of the state security council.
“We also wrote to the office of the National Human Rights Commission, to prevail on the Comptroller General of Prisons to reply to our letter and grant us access to the prisons but all proved abortive.
“We have had six sittings on this matter and at the end, we have resolved to write our report to inform you that we met an administrative brick wall as a result of the lack of cooperation from the Prisons headquarters Abuja as well as the Borno command of the NPS.
“We therefore conclude that there is something fishy within the prisons, but because of lack of access to the prisons, we were unable to unravel the mystery.”
Governor Shettima described the actions of the Controller General of Prisons as “detestable and condemnable” and asked the federal government to “beam light on him because he who has nothing to hide, has nothing to fear”.
“They think by creating a brick wall, we will sweep it under the carpet. We will not,” Shettima said.
“I deliberately requested for the presentation of this report because we want the world to know that we have made efforts to investigate the allegations.
“We cannot afford to play the ostrich here. It is true we have a problem of child prostitution and forced abortion. These were cases that were prosecuted by the Borno ministry of justice, and culprits were jailed, only for one to hear similar crimes being committed in the prison. So there is more to it than meets the eye.
“We can’t deliberately embarrass the federal government; most especially (as) the issues of child prostitution, rape, sodomy and mass abortion have assumed an international dimension and any sensible government will not turn a blind eye to the atrocities that have been inflicted on our younger ones.
“We are going to handle this matter with all sense of maturity because we do not intend to overheat the polity.”
Prison authority speaks
Reacting to the development, spokesman of the Nigeria Prisons Services, Francis Enobore, said the authorities were already aware of the allegations which he said, “were as spurious as they are unfounded”. He, however, added that the CGP had commissioned an investigation.
Enobore also explained that the Borno State Committee was denied access into the Maiduguri Prison on the grounds of “national security” and not because the prison authorities undermined their legitimacy.
“Everyone knows how fragile the security situation has been in the country and especially the North East. And the CGP strongly feels the service cannot be acting on unfounded allegations to jeopardise the security of the country,” Enobore said.
“This is not in any way meant to disrespect the Borno governor; he is a gentleman, whom even the CGP holds with much respect.”
The prisons spokesman said the NPS did not want the Borno State committee to usurp the Service’s responsibility.
He admitted that there are minors being held in the Maiduguri Prison, but clarified that Maiduguri is a peculiar situation and that such was not the case in all the prison facilities across the country.
“We all know the peculiarity of the situation in Borno State and we all know why those underaged children are kept in the prisons. Those children are being ‘processed’ so that they can be taken to a more secure facility.
“And the fact that they are in the prison does not mean they are being kept in the same cell(s) with adults. There are cells for adults and for children; we have cells for males and females. So those allegations are not true,” Enobore said.