Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Kaigama and Legal Luminary Chief Mike Ozekhomhe (a Senior Advocate of Nigeria), have canvassed for better welfare for prisoners and staff of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS).
The call is sequel to President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent to an Act renaming the Nigeria Prisons Service to the Nigeria Correctional Service on Wednesday.
Kaigama, who doubles as the Co-adjutor Archbishop of Abuja with over 25 years prison apostolate and Ozekhomhe, spoke in separate interviews with Daily Sun.
Kaigama, while commending the government for the move, said the welfare of prisoners should be of utmost importance.
He added that prisoners should be accorded a minimum degree of respect and dignity, adding that the country has witnessed prominent personalities, past heads of states and presidents who have been to prison.
Kaigama said he felt their experience in prison would have helped them to appreciate the fact that anybody could be in prison, hence the need to make the conditions humane.
Kaigama further tasked the government to give incentives to prison staff so that they can see themselves not only as people meant to discipline prisoners, but as brothers and teachers who appreciate the lives of prisoners.
“So, I think if they get good incentives and are well looked after, they too will transfer that to the prisoners. But if the prison staff come to work hungry, or has his salary delayed or he is not paid his entitlement, he takes it out on the prisoners,” the cleric said.
“I feel we should go beyond just renaming the prison and give the prison a face lift and make sure that the prisoners are well looked after so that they can emerge and be integrated to help in contributing their quota to the society,” Kaigama said.
On his part, Ozekhomhe said President Buhari’s assent to the bill which renamed the Nigeria Prisons Service was the right way to go.
“That is the right way to go. That is one thing I think has come from Buhari’s government. It is like saying that every dark sky must have a silver lining because a prison is not really supposed to be a gulag of torment. A prison is supposed to be correctional, a prison is supposed to be reformatory. It is not supposed to harden criminals,” Ozekhomhe said.
On the way forward, Ozekhomhe called on the government to take a cue from what obtained in other climes and make Nigerian prisons the ideal correctional home where prisoners are made better citizens.