By Nwabueze Okonkwo
ONITSHA – THE N29 million skills acquisition center project for Onitsha prisons being proposed by the Onitsha Catholic Archdiocese was, weekend, flagged off by the Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, Most Rev. Valerian Maduka Okeke.
Performing the flag-off ceremony during his routine pastoral visit to Onitsha prisons, Archbishop Okeke noted that the centre is expected to house a technical workshop for all skill set a school for distant learning and all types of trades.
He noted that the essence of embarking on such a gigantic project was to ensure that the inmates would learn all the trades while serving their various jail terms so that when they come out, they become useful to themselves and to the society. He said that though it is the responsibility of the federal government to provide such a facility, but the church deemed necessary to do so in partnership with the government to enable the country move forward.
The Archbishop who noted that the N29 million project which would cover only the structures, with the exclusion of solar energy and equipment, noted that the project which is expected to be completed within a year, would be funded by the Archdiocese.
Earlier in a homily during a confirmation mass for the inmates, the Archbishop of Onitsha Ecclesiastical province, Archbishop Valerian Okeke urged Christians to live Christ-like lives anchored on love for one another.
The cleric said because God fulfills promises, Christians should endeavour to stand by their words, even as he also urged the followers of Christ to always strive to follow Christ in words and in action no matter the circumstances as it is the only way to showcase their love for God.
He later presented the inmates with cooked food, beverages, a live cow and other food stuffs which he said should be distributed equitably to the 787 inmates some of whom are serving various jail terms, while others are awaiting trial.
In his speech, the Chief of Staff, Government House, Awka, Professor Joe Asike who represented Governor Willie Obiano at the ceremony, noted that the state government would equip the center and provide enabling environment for a smooth take off of activities in the centre. Asike who commended the church for contributing immensely towards the success story of his administration.
Earlier, the Deputy Comptroller of Prisons in charge Onitsha, Ibrahim Usman had commended Okeke for his regular visits to the prisons with gift items. He, however, appealed to the cleric to caution the prison and non prison officials for smuggling hard drugs into the compound for the inmates.
In his vote of thanks, the Chaplain of the Maximilian Kolbe Chaplaincy, Rev. Fr. Pius Nwankwo expressed delight that the chaplaincy is so blessed that it is the only place where the Archbishop visits three times a year with gift and cash donations.
Fr. Nwankwo, therefore, prayed God to give the Archbishop good health and long life to enable him fulfill the good works he started inside the prison which is total transformation because according to him, once the Archbishop is alive and healthy, he would surely fulfill his promises, as a man of his word.
Highlights of the occasion included the presentation of a merit award to the Archbishop by the youth wing of Arewa Consultative Forum.