By Adewale Sanyaolu
The Neo Black Movement (NBM) of Africa has decried the rising number of awaiting inmates in Nigeria prisons, saying the over 80 percent figure remained unacceptable.
National Legal Adviser of NBM, Mr. Hope Aliu stated this in Lagos at the weekend, when members of NBM visited Ikoyi Prison to offer Pro Bono(free) Legal services and presentation of relief materials, which included electric fans, soaps and insecticides to some inmates.
Aliu said it was regrettable that, of the 2,362 inmates in Ikoyi prison, only 313 have been convicted, translating to about 2,049 awaiting trial.
He said prisoners have rights, and as such, these rights are what NBM of Africa is out to assist the prisoner to protect and enforce by the outreach programme, adding that, often times, the Nigerian prisoner does not know that he is entitled to these rights.
‘‘What NBM of Africa is set out to do today, is a clear case of advocacy for the very less privileged member of the society. The Nigerian situation is such that no one remembers that the prisoner has a right probably because he is seen as an offender. He is considered to be getting what he deserves.
But what we should remember is that there are 2 categories of prisoners, the convicted prisoner and the awaiting trial prisoner. If we say the convicted prisoner deserves what he is getting, what about the awaiting trial prisoner who is considered to be innocent in the face of the law until the contrary is proved at the determination of the case against him,’’ he said?
On his part, NBM President, Worldwide, Mr. Felix Kupa, used the occasion to disassociate the movement away from cultism, gangsters’ and other forms of deviant behavior in the society, affirming that the association only admits responsible citizens as its member, being a group registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission(CAC)
“NBM is not synonymous with Black Axe or any secret cult or organisation. We are aware that some imposters and miscreants use the name of our organisation to seek asylum abroad under the pretence that they are being hunted by NBM. It is unfortunate that the authorities do not investigate these claims before such disgruntled elements are granted asylum,” he clarified.
Kupa, however, threatened legal action against any individual or organisation that tries to tarnish the movement’s reputation by way of deeds or actions.
On his part, the Deputy Controller of Prisons (DCP) in charge of Ikoyi Prison, Julius Ezugwu, lauded the resolve of NBM in carrying out the vision of its founding fathers, which is the emancipation of the black race and fighting all form of injustice, calling on all other similar organizations to emulate the movement.
Ezugwu, lamented that the prison service just like any other government organization is constrained due to paucity of funds in realizing its mandate of ensuring that inmates are offered the best service compared to what is obtainable in other parts of the globe.
In his goodwill message, the immediate past president worldwide of the movement, Hon. Bemigho Eyeoyibo, commended the present team for not only consolidating the gains made over the years but for also adding a fresh initiatives including visitations to prisons and camps of internally displaced persons (IDPs).