NIGERIAN PRISON SYSTEM; A REFORMATION FOR CRIMINALS?
This was an in-house speech I prepared for a debate but was never delivered last year.
As i travel through the dark tunnel of history, i found light in the words of Martin Luther when he said that reformation is like salvation granted on the basis of faith rather than action.
Similarly, the Oxford English dictionary, the 8th edition, defined reformation as an improvement in the existing form or condition of something or someone.
On these premise, it is therefore safe to say that reformation is a process that starts from the mind and journey down to the whole body so that it can be seen in character or behaviour of a person.
In relation to the topic, does the Nigerian prison system serve as reformation for criminals? I dare to say YES, it does!
In support of my stand, public opinion suggests that most criminals are illiterates or school dropouts prior to falling into the wrong hands of the law. But I can proudly say that prison activities are designed to educate interested inmates in core subjects in science, social science and the arts. O-level examinations like WAEC, GCE and the likes are also conducted for qualified inmates. Infact, inmates are bagging various university degrees inside prison, courtesy of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). Tunwashe Kabiru, who is now a master degree holder in business administration, is a testimony to this fact. In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in March 2016, he said,” I never thought that while in prison, I could achieve so much. I had made a lot of mistakes in the past, but now I wish to become a better person”.
Ladies and gentlemen, when the devil starts to love, when hatred begins to care, when mad men like Tunwashe Kabiru realize all they had lost to the prison days of insanity and wish to become a better person, surely, reformation has taken place.
My opponent might fuel their argument on the basis of poor facilities and uncondusive atmosphere of Nigerian prisons. However, a critical look at the infrastructures in the University of Ibadan- where 6 or more students share a room meant for 2, where most of our toilets are nothing to write home about, where even our lecture theaters are poorly ventilated- this is a similar picture of Nigerian prisons. But the fact that facilities are inadequate does not mean students do not graduate with excellent results. In fact, compared to institutions like Babcock where facilities are world class; still, many of their best students are no match for most of the University of Ibadan’s average students. Therefore I can infer that just as the intelligence of a student is not necessarily a function of the quality of the school he attended, same is the reformation of criminals not necessarily a result of the prison facilities.
Francis Enobore, spokesman of Nigerian Prison Service once said that for those who do not possess the intellectual tact, there are skills acquisition centers, 29 large farms, several agricultural projects, and numerous workshops scattered across prisons in Nigeria.
Did you know that these workshops have produced and will continue to produce first class graduates in bead making, fashion designing, catering, and so on? Olukoya Akinmodiro for example, as reported by Metro news in November 2015, was an ex-convict at Ikoyi prisons and now, he is the CEO of Cassalina, a food processing company, thanks to what he learnt while in prison. Too long a time, criminals have been painted as idle hands in our devilish prisons workshop. But with the skills they acquire from prison, the devil will have no choice but to pack up and lock its shop.
At this juncture, I pre-empt my opponent mentioning the issue of recidivism, a situation whereby most prisoners upon release, are re-arrested for committing another offence. Although this statement is true, I still stand firmly on my proposition because the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics in October 2014 shows that 75% of 700,000 released criminals, a figure that is 5 times the population of U.I are re-arrested in the United States within a year. Whereas in Nigeria, it was reported that only 45% of 2000 ex-convicts, an exact population as the ground floor of block A in Alexandria Brown hall, are re-arrested yearly. So, which of these prison systems would you agree to be a better reformatory option? The one of the advanced nations nuturing advanced criminals, or that of the developing country that is nuturing developing individuals?
In conclusion ladies and gentlemen, my opponent may come up to mesmerize how criminals are being tortured and tormented in prison, but let us not forget that a pencil which does not endure the pain of sharpening will never write; the gold which does not brave the agony of flame will never shine; and the criminal who is not straighten by the firm hands of incarceration will never change.
I am Abdul Mujeeb Muhammad Jummah; a noble bellite. Thank you