People who hold the view that nothing good can come out of prisoners may begin to think otherwise. At least, the performance of some inmates of the Ikoyi Prisons, Lagos in the last November/December West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination is enough indication that Nigerian prisons, in a way, are also centres of reformation.
Indeed, with no fewer than 102 inmates of the prisons participating in the examinations and 48 of them posting outstanding results, some stakeholders note that there is still hope for jailbirds in the country.
Findings by our correspondent show that while a few of the 48 prisoners scored distinction in their papers, others got at least five credits which is the minimum requirement for securing university admission in the country.
For example, while Bamidele Oluwafemi, with examination number 5258888075, obtained three distinctions and five credits, including English and Mathematics, Bassey Ekpo; with registration number 5258888094, got five distinctions and two credits.
The Ikoyi Prisons, off Polo Road, Lagos, our correspondent gathered, is an accredited WAEC centre. It is also a coaching and examination centre.
In an exclusive interview with our correspondent, one of the outstanding inmates, Mr. Edet Patrick, explains the drive behind his success story.
He says, “Even though I am an inmate here, I still hope to go back to school. I still look forward to going to the university study to Computer Engineering. Besides teaching us to work hard, the authorities here established a special school where we prepare for external examinations.”
Patrick, a 24-year-old indigene of Calabar, Cross River State, adds that he wants to put the past behind him, and develop himself. Hence, he studied hard and passed the WAEC exams in flying colours. He had five credits.
When asked what led to his imprisonment, the young man sighed and saying, “I was convicted for conspiracy in a robbery case. I had travelled from Calabar to Lagos to stay with a friend. Later on, my friend’s landlady implicated me in a robbery incident which had happened in the area.”
Patrick, who is serving a five-year jail term, which began on March 5, 2010 and will terminate on November 9, 2015, notes that despite having one more year to spend in jail, he has a great destiny ahead of him.
“Making such results while here has made me realise I can still make it in life. It has taught me, I should never give up. I have also got closer to God while in this place,” he says.
Another prisoner and successful candidate, Imoh Felix, holds a similar view. Felix, who obtained a distinction and, four credits, tells our correspondent that he is more than ready to lift his life to loftier heights.
He remarks, “I decided to add value to myself, after whatever life has thrown at me. The ambition to further my education too is a strong drive to study hard for that WAEC exams. I completed my secondary education at Agidingbi Grammar School, Ikeja and was resident at Omole Estate, before circumstances brought me here.
“Now, my plan is to seek admission to the university. I want to study at the University of Calabar or University of Port Harcourt. Though it will be unfathomable to some people, I am happy to have come to the prison because it has added this value to me.”
However, 29-year-old Felix, who has been in the prisons since January 27, 2010, is still awaiting trial at the Ikeja High Court 55, and the next hearing for his case is June 2, 2014.
It was learnt that these inmates have also registered for the Computer-Based Test of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations, which will be written on May 17. The prisons hall is the centre of the inmates.
Besides these success stories, our correspondent gathered that another 60 inmates of the prisons are preparing for the next November/ December WAEC examinations in the school.
The head teacher of the school, a Principal Inspector of Prisons, Mr. Ayodele Obarewo, explains how the inmates have been performing.
“It is a voluntary school, and there are two classes – the beginners’ class and the examination class. In the latter, we have over 40 inmates already, and they are showing great interest and enthusiasm in the lessons,” he notes.
To confirm his statement, Obarewo walked this correspondent to the school hall where the inmates were seen receiving classes. The attentiveness and composure in the large room made it seem like a university’s lecture theatre except that the inmates appeared rough and much mature.
The principal however notes that non-governmental organisations run and finance the school.
He says, “It is not a government school. We call it Muharam Sisters Education Centre named after the name of the NGO, which gave us these facilities. The group also pays the salaries of our teachers. Muharam is an Arabic term, which means the New Moon.
“Other NGOs which have been paying inmates’ registration fees for external examinations are the Redeemed Christian Church of God, City of David; and Bishop Adebola Ademowo of the Anglican Communion, Lagos Diocese.”
However, the principal notes that the school still needs instructional materials such as textbooks for the library, computer sets, and printers.
In his remarks, the Deputy Controller of Prisons, Ikoyi Prisons, Lagos, Mr. Emmanuel Bamidele, urges the state government to grant amnesty to some of the inmates who have demonstrated hard work and character by doing well at the WAEC exams.
“There is need for these few serious-minded ones to be granted amnesty so that they can further their education. I appeal to the state government to look into their performances and release them.
Our correspondent learnt that last year, the Lagos State Chief Judge, Justice Ayotunde Phillips, visited the prisons and granted 140 of the inmates pardon.
Bamidele continues, “As many as 1, 575 inmates are still awaiting trial out of 1, 761. This is worrisome for all of us. But I urge the government to grant release to these hardworking ones so that they can live their dreams.” (PUNCH)