Adeboye’s visit has become the talk-of-the-town among prison officials and inmates at Ikoyi Prison, Kirikiri and the Lagos State Prison Command at Alagbon.
Tunde Thomas and Chioma Igbokwe
Inmates at Kirikiri Prisons in Lagos are in an upbeat mood as preparations for Christmas and New Year celebrations get underway. Saturday Sun exclusively gathered that the prison inmates have become excited following revelations that the popular evangelist, and the General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, will be celebrating this year’s Christmas with them.
Reliable sources say Adeboye will be accompanied during the visit by over 100 top pastors of the church. The visit is expected to be a mixture of evangelism and merriment as arrangements have been made by the church to throw a big feast for the inmates.
Already, Adeboye’s visit has become the talk-of-the-town among prison officials and inmates at Ikoyi Prison, Kirikiri and the Lagos State Prison Command at Alagbon. “For us in the prison, the news of Adeboye’s coming is like receiving the news of a visit by the Pope,” a prison official who does not want his name in print said. “Those of us that are officials as at well as inmates can hardly conceal our excitement. The last time Pastor Adeboye came here was two years ago. That was in 2016, and we all knew the spiritual gains we made from the visit. Hearing that Pastor Adeboye is coming to celebrate Christmas with us this year really gladdens our hearts.”
Preparations to receive Adeboye and entourage
But Saturday Sun learnt that the visit will not be on 25th December but on the 26th, which is the Boxing Day. Although Adeboye’s main destination is Kirikiri Maximum Prison where he and his entourage are scheduled to hold prayer sessions and fellowship with inmates that are on deathrow, it was learnt that his first port of call on arriving the place will be Kirikiri Medium Prison and the Female Prison.
“Our expectation is that Papa Adeboye and his entourage will first come to the Kirikiri Medium Prison and the Female Prison because his motorcade will pass through the two prisons first before going to maximum prison where those awaiting execution are being kept. Inmates in the two prisons are already aware that Pastor Adeboye is coming, and they also want to partake from his spiritual blessings and words of exhortation,” the op prison official said.
On the type of preparations being made to receive Adeboye and his team, the official said they are expecting an advanced team from the Redeemed Church this weekend, adding that members of the team and prison officials will then hold a joint meeting to fine tune strategies to make the pastoral visit a hitch-free one.
“On our part, we are ever ready,” he noted. “Talking about logistics and other things to make the visit a success, a lot depend on the church. Two years ago when Adeboye visited, apart from packed and canned food and drink which the church brought in excess, it also donated three cows to inmates to celebrate Christmas and New Year with. We have been told to expect our package as usual. But our hope is that the number of cows that will be given us this year will increase from three to at least five because the number of inmates have also increased between 2016 and now.”
Speaking on how it possible it is for condemned inmates who are usually holed up in their cells for 24 hours daily to listen to Adeboye’s preachings, the prison official said arrangements have been made to give them temporary freedom that day as they will open their locked cells and move them to prison open yard where the ceremony will take place.
“On that day, they will leave their cells under the watchful eyes of armed prison guards and will be under watch throughout the ceremony. They will be allowed to wine and dine but as soon the programme is rounded off, they will go back into their solitary confinement,” he stated.
How inmates celebrate Christmas
On how the inmates will generally celebrate Christmas, the official said those of them at the Maximum Prison, Medium Prison and Female Prison who are Christians are allowed to celebrate the Yuletide, with pomp.
“You know, we have churches in the prison. We have churches for Catholics, Anglicans and Pentecostals. So, depending on which of these churches the inmates belong to we allow them to attend service within the prison on Christmas Day. Then after the service, some non-governmental organizations, churches and groups will bring food and drinks for them. Christmas Day is a day of merriment for the inmates. On Christmas Day, they usually have more than enough to eat and drink and for this year’s Christmas, it is not going to be an exception. Some churches and organizations have already informed us about their visit to the prison, and we are waiting for them.”
He, however, was quick to add that it is not only merriment galore for the prison inmates, Christmas, he said, is also a time for sober reflection for inmates. “On Christmas Day, there will also be time for prayer and counseling sessions where ministers of God and counselors will interact with them,” he informed. “Not only that, they will also counsel and pray for them. In short, Christmas Day is a day we call a day of great expectations for the inmates.”
Asked to explain what he meant by that phrase, the official said that both inmates and prison officials call it a day of great expectations because it is a day when august visitors like state governors, state chief judges and former governors usually come visiting with goodies and good news for inmates. “By good news, what I mean is that on such days a state governor or state chief judge may come and announce amnesty or pardon for some inmates. So in many ways, Christmas and Boxing Day are unique days for prison inmates and they always look forward to it.”
Saturday Sun learnt that prison inmates are usually given extended time on Christmas Day to receive their relations and loved ones. During such visit relations are not only allowed to bring cooked special delicacies but also to stay for a longer period with inmates. It was, however, learnt that this ‘special privilege’ is only accorded to inmates in Kirikiri Medium Prison and the Female Prison.
The scene that caused teardrops at the Female Prison
At the Female Prison, spouses of detained inmates are allowed to stay longer and have intimate discussions with their wives, some of whom are carrying pregnancies or are nursing mothers. Recalling how emotional such visits usually are, a prison official at that section of the prison told Saturday Sun about how prison officials and other female inmates broke down last Christmas when a young man came to visit his wife, a nursing mother who was being detained for failing to repay a loan taken from a micro-finance bank.
“It was a gripping and very emotional sight when this woman who was nursing a seven-month-old baby was brought out to meet her husband. As the man hugged his wife, and was about taking the baby from her, everybody broke down in tears,” she recalled. “Even other nursing mothers being detained with their babies also broke down in tears. It was another round of tears when the man was bidding farewell to his wife and baby after the visit.”
Feeding situation among inmates during Xmas
On whether inmates’ rations could be officially increased on Christmas Day, a prison official who spoke with Saturday Sun at the Maximum Prison said no before quickly adding that there were always more than enough for everybody to eat as churches, NGOs, corporate bodies, and private individuals usually bring food and drinks in abundance during the period.
“Official rations don’t change on Christmas Day or during any of the festive periods,” he said. “We never have enough to go round, let alone increasing rations. But on Christmas Day or any other festive period, there is always plenty to eat and drink. By drinks I mean soft drinks. We don’t allow spirits or any intoxicating drink in the prison.”
The official added that for this year’s Christmas celebrations that the prison authorities have received more than enough letters from individuals, churches, corporate bodies and others expressing their intention to feed inmates on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year Day.
Waiting for Adeboye and his team
Confirming Adeboye’s visit to Kirikiri Maximum Prison on December 26, the Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Prison Command, Barrister Rotimi Oladokun, told Saturday Sun that Adeboye and his entourage are being expected to celebrate with those inmates that are on death row.
“It is true that we are expecting Pastor Adeboye, and members of his team,” he affirmed. “It is going to be a great day for us to have Adeboye in our midst. We are ready. We’ve made adequate preparations to receive the team. Christmas period is usually a special period for the inmates. It is a time for merrymaking, sober reflection and spiritual renewal for them.”
He also confirmed that special church services will be organized for the inmates at Kirikiri, Ikoyi and Badagry Prisons to reflect the Yuletide. While calling on members of the public to always remember prison inmates especially during festive occasions, the Director-General, Prisons Rehabilitation Mission International, Bishop Kayode Williams said they deserve love and prayers and not stigmatization or rejection by the society.