Revelations that have startled as many as have heard them have been made by a freed inmate about how the Enugu Maximum Prison authorities allegedly force prisoners to pay N2,000 fee for each of them to be transported from the prison to court to attend to their various matters.
The prisoner who was recently set free also claimed that inmates paid between N100 to N150 for a bucket of water.
The Deputy Comptroller in charge of the prison, Mustapha Attah however dismissed the allegations as an attempt by mischief-makers who, he said, were out to undermine his outstanding contributions to the growth and effective control of the prison.
In a chat, the former inmate who would not want his name in print said: “You must pay before you are taken to court; if you don’t pay nobody takes you to court and that is why many prisoners don’t come to court; they say the money is for the Black Maria, and it’s N2,000 each.”
The source who said he didn’t have the money to pay the day he was granted bail narrated how he begged and assured that warders that he would collect money from his people in the court premises before he was taken to court.
He was granted bail in court and, therefore, he refused to pay the fee. But by the time he returned to the prison, waiting for the perfection of his bail, he was locked up in what he called the back cell or punishment cell for three days.
He said he was later transferred to Oji-River Prison for more punishment but was saved by the quick intervention of his lawyer who facilitated his release.
Other alleged irregularities from the Enugu Prison include the practice of making prison inmates pay rent for cell space they occupy while in detention.
According to the source, the inmates pay N10,000, N25,000 up to N200,000 depending on the quality of the cell.
The prisoners were further alleged to have contributed money sometime in April this year with which the cells were painted when a top prison official visited the Enugu Prison.
The prisoners were also allegedly allowed access to their GSM phones inside the prison yard, a rare privilege, which they in turn contributed money to pay officials for whenever there was an inspection of the cells.
Also despite the availability of a well, the source alleged that prisoners were made to buy a bucket of water for between N100 and N150 naira.
Furthermore, it was learnt that only about two to three cups of drinking water were rationed to each inmate on a daily basis. Those who wanted more water had to allegedly to pay.
There were also stories about a task force made up of prisoners themselves who wore green shirts with inscription of ‘Task Force’ at the back. They were alleged to be the eyes of the prison boss and even feared by warders.
Reacting to the allegations, the Deputy Comptroller of Prisons, (DCP), Mustapha Attah said all the allegations were false and unfounded.
He said that even Nigeria Prisons Service headquarters in Abuja had sent officials to investigate the same allegations and found out that they were baseless.
“Somebody is just there trying to run down the good job we are doing here. They sent a petition on these same issues to Abuja and they came here to find out.”
Attah who was posted to Enugu in October 2009 faulted the allegation that prisoners were paying N2,000 fee before being taken to court, stating that the number of prisoners who attended court had risen significantly since he came to Enugu Prison.
“If they don’t go, the judges will complain but here I have been getting praises from both the chief judge and attorney-general.”
On the issue of use of phone in the prison, DCP Attah noted that the Comptroller General had sent circulars on that, insisting that Enugu had never deviated from that directive.
On water he said Enugu Prisons had a water tanker supplied since 2008; “it has to go up to 9th Mile to buy water. I provide the money for diesel for the tanker to bring water three times a day because the last time Water Board gave us water was five months ago.
“So how can I buy water and sell the same water to inmates? It’s unthinkable. How can people stay and formulate things.
“They said inmates contributed money to paint the cells. It’s like telling a suspect in a police cell to pay for the painting of the cell, how can it work?”