The Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) has reacted to concerns raised in some quarters with respect to the recent events held at the Kirikiri Female Custodial Centre in Lagos to mark International Women’s Day.
Earlier in March, a beauty pageant was held at the Kirikiri correctional centre, and it saw a murder suspect, Miss Chidinma Ojukwu, emerge as the winner.
The pageant sparked heated debates in various areas, while some argued that rights come before morality in law, others questioned the rationale behind including Chidinma in such an activity not minding the emotions of the family of the late Super TV CEO who she is alleged to have murdered, especially when the case against the accused is still in court.
Wading into this controversy, the NCoS in a statement by its spokesman, Francis Enobore, expressed deep regrets over the unintended interpretations the pageant has elicited.
Enobore in making a case for the pageant, stated that psychosocial engagements have traditionally been part of the Service inmates’ treatment regimens designed to provide emotional stability needed to promote the total well-being of inmates and enhance safe custody.
“It would be recalled that several celebrities and internationally recognised artists such as Sam Okposu, Oyenka Owenu, Pasuma, Denrele, Lamboginny, to mention but a few, have carried out lavish concerts in the male custodial centres in Kirikiri and Ikoyi to celebrate with the inmates irrespective of their status.
“In the year 2000 to be specific, Channels Television covered a musical concert for male inmates in Ikoyi Custodial Centre were Dr. Sola Fosude, the Head of Department, Art & Music, Lagos State University praised the performance of the inmates and commended the personnel for their effort. The intendment has never been to glamourise or make a hero out of criminality.
“These events, beyond the venial of entertaining criminals and suspect alike, provides an avenue for generating actionable intelligence to address some knotty issues under investigation and the intelligence community has severally benefitted from this service.
“The beauty pageantry in question was one out of the series of events that featured competition in dancing, singing, bead making, costume design etc. Other prizes were won by other inmates equally facing charges for heinous crimes. Aside from creating a relaxed atmosphere for the inmates, the prizes do not bestow any right or privilege on any of the contestants.
“Moreover, the event was for internal consumption within the custodial environment and never meant to be given wide publicity.
“It was also insinuated that male inmates were deliberately kept in squalor, compared to the female custodial centres generally adjudged to be exceptionally clean.
“It is no longer news that females account for less than 1.5% of the total inmates’ population of about 70,000 in the country.
“Therefore, overcrowding and the attendant chaos are exclusively found in male custodial centres due to pressure on the infrastructure,” Enobore explained.
The NCoS said it is quite sensitive to the plight of victims and their families and will never indulge in anything to undermine this.
Enobore said the Service believes that controlled social engagements do not interfere with the trial of cases in court as activities within custodial centres have no bearing with the evidence needed for cases to be tried.
While identifying with the Atagas in their moment of grief, the NCoS stated that it will do everything within its power to assist the course of justice in unveiling those behind the dastardly act.