Sunday, July 22, 2007
Click here for full view of Kuje prisons
The new Mecca called Kuje prisons
IN the past week, human and vehicular traffic to the Kuje Medium Prisons in Abuja had almost dwarfed the chaotic Lagos traffic jams.
Reason- The prisons, famous for playing host to "very important prisoners" (VIP)- has as guests four former governors, who are standing trial in court over allegations of financial impropriety during their tenure in office.
They include former governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, his counterpart in Plateau State, Chief Joshua Dariye, that of Jigawa, Alhaji Saminu Turaki and former governor of Taraba State, Rev. Jolly Tanko Nyame.
Since they were detained at various times last week on the orders of the courts, relations, friends, political and business associates have turned the prisons into a Mecca of sorts.
At the weekend, thousands of sympathisers thronged the prisons' outside premises, some of them said to have camped there for days while others from afar took up temporary residence in hotels in the town and its environs, Abuja and Suleja.
It was learnt that Mohammed and Abba Abacha were among the first set of people to visit Turaki in the prison.
The Guardian gathered that the former governors had protested the accommodation offered them, describing the place as "unfit for any human being."
Investigation revealed that when the detainees arrived in the prisons last Monday and were ushered into their single cell apartments, they vehemently protested to the authorities, that "the places were so dirty" and that they would not be able to stay there.
When the officer in charge of the prisons, Assistant Comptroller of Prisons (ACP), Kabiru Usman Funtua, saw the seriousness in their protest, he quickly, "at about 8.30pm," made alternative arrangement in the prisons' clinic within the premises for them to spend the night.
However, luck reportedly ran against them when the Comptroller of Prisons in charge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mohammed Achafa, visited the prisons on Tuesday and could not find them in their respective cells.
Achafa ordered that the former governors be returned to their cells immediately. Kalu is occupying cell room 3; Turaki room 7; Nyame room 8; and Dariye room 10.
The cells have only Dunlop mattresses without fans or air conditioners. It was learnt that they bought fans for themselves later.
The former governors had also requested that their private doctors should be allowed access to them but this was turned down by the authorities with the explanation that they have an in-house qualified medical doctor.
In the interim, the detainees have drawn closer to God in their hour of tribulation, as witnessed by The Guardian early yesterday.
"My dear brothers, whatever you are passing through at the moment, have faith in the Almighty God. It is a passing phase and He will definitely intervene for He does not abandon His own."
This was the exhortation from Rev. Nyame, as he led inmates at the Prisons in Christian prayers.
"God does not sleep. Holy Ghost fire shall descend on our enemies and God will prove to them that He is a just God," said Kalu, as he displayed his skill in table tennis before the inmates.
The former governors still exhibit spirit of camaraderie, as they eat together under a mango tree near the cells.
"They are what the Prisons authorities call "self feeding" with their former aides assisting to buy the food from five-star hotels in Abuja.
Nyame and Kalu have become so close that they are always together. But Turaki reportedly "still sobs on a daily basis," just as he did in court last week.
Prisons' sources said that, "every morning, he will take his Koran and other Islamic literatures to the mosque in the Prisons where he stays from morning till evening before retiring to his Cell 7."
The Assistant Comptroller of Prisons in charge of public relations, Kayode Odeyemi, told The Guardian that the ex-governors should not complain about the condition in the Prisons, adding that it was part of the general decay in all the sectors in the country.
He noted that the detainees had the opportunity during their tenures as governors, to make their contributions towards improving the prison conditions but they did not do that. 'That is what is happening in all infrastructure; it is not the prisons alone," he stressed.
He continued: "If you are in authority, make the place better. If they are complaining, they are indicting themselves. Those in authority should make the place better because we are doing our best.
"Prison is like death. It is a leveler. Those in authority should make the place better because you don't know tomorrow. Those in prisons deserve good treatment."