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B-I-Z-A-R-R-E Life of sodomy, murder, rape, drugs in Owerri Prison

Ex-inmate tells a shocking story of a prison where warders facilitate rape, other crimes and share in the booty

By Emma Nnadozie, Crime Editor

His story was as bizarre as it was shocking. He was clamped into Owerri Federal Prisons early this year while awaiting trial for manslaughter. Luckily, he perfected his bail late last week after a very traumatic period in the prison. The 40-year-old suspect who gave a vivid account of the ugly sides of the federal facility appealed for strict anonymity in a no-hold-bared interview with Crime Guard. Excerpts:

“The feeling I had, immediately I stepped into the prison in Owerri from the court was that of grandeur because of the neat environment of the place with flowers. We got in there, myself and a police man I met at the State Criminal Investigations Department, SCID, Owerri, with two others who came in that evening. While the inmates outside were asking us questions, I noticed that some of them were showing special interest in us. They were so friendly and asked us if we wanted to take our bath in their cells and I was wondering why they were being so nice to us. We came in about 4 or 5pm, and my lawyer gave money to the warders to buy food for me. They promised they would buy the food but immediately my lawyer left, they refused to buy food for me and they never returned my money.

Later that night, the warders put six of us in a small cell. Early in the morning the following day, a particular inmate came and brought tea with bread and promised he was going to take us to his own cell after our admission. I was suspicious of his gesture and did not drink the tea.

Inmates as Provosts

“Then I noticed that some people were running around the premises. They were called provosts. They come round to pay money for whoever they wanted to be in their cell. So, a particular man paid the warder to have me in his own cell and when I was being taken to his cell, an argument arose between the one who brought me and the one taking me out. The matter was then tabled before their leader who was referred to as the General Provost and that was how I was taken to the particular cell that I was kept in. When I got into the cell, they searched me for money, but they did not find any. They interrogated me and when I told them that I was a pastor, I was then taken to the pastor’s zone. Those provosts who paid money to have me in their cell were not happy to hear that I was a pastor. Inmates at the pastor’s cell then cautioned me against eating anything other inmates would give me because they could put drug in it and thereafter rape me. So, I became more careful. The following day, I noticed that before one could receive sunlight, one must pay some money to both the warder and the provost. Also, condom was freely sold to those who used it for sodomy.

Separate chalets for sodomists, fraudsters

“I must tell you that 80% of the atrocities that happened there was perpetrated by the warders who engaged in selling things like condoms and India hemp and did all sorts of transactions there. One of the inmates who duped people even while serving his sentence in the prison once collected millions of naira from a warder who facilitated the crime. Warders were being used to collect their loot. Out of 86 of us in that cell, those who had no phone were less than 20. The warders would bring phones to sell to the inmates. Phones that were normally sold for N20,000, the warders would sell them for N40,000 or N45,000. The inmates used the phones freely, and even bought recharge cards which they called fuel, N600 airtime was sold for N1000 there. There was a department referred to as G ward which was a place reserved for high class fraudsters. They were regarded as big men and they paid warders N1million naira every two months. They used laptops, expensive phones, mosquito nets, and nobody searched or disturbed them. There was also another place called Chalets which was meant for sodomists. Those people paid warders whenever they needed a person to sleep with and they could also sell their space for prostitution. Warders also collected money for cocaine sellers and buyers. There was the well known case of a 62-year-old inmate who was offered tea by a fellow inmate. Later in the midnight when he woke up from induced sleep, he noticed that he had been raped severally. He felt so bitter and cursed whoever did that to him. Few weeks later, the inmate whom we suspected did it died in a very tragic manner. He was fighting with another inmate who held him on the groin. Another inmate who came to separate them forcefully pushed down the one holding his opponent’s groin and he ended up pulling out the other man’s manhood. He died few minutes later before he was rushed to the hospital. Most of us saw it as the prize he had to pay for raping that 62-year-old man without his consent.

Underaged prison inmates at the Badagry prisons in Lagos State

Inmates organise, execute crimes outside

“In that prison, inmates with different crimes were lumped together and in the process hardened criminals had great influence on those with minor offences who would eventually become hardened criminals once they were freed. Most of the inmates did not eat food provided in the prison because they could buy and eat whatever they wanted there. Worst still, inmates also organised and executed crimes from the confines of their cells inside the prison. They provided assorted guns to their gang members from inside the prison and would teach their gang members outside how to avoid police and other tricks that would aid their successful execution of operations. Inmates would use their phones to make contacts for gang members outside to procure guns for operations and most times when the phones were tracked to the prison, the authorities would deny that anybody used phone. Some others like fraudsters would use international code lines to call women they met on social media, claiming that they were in the United States of America. When they got acquainted with the lady, they would change the line to a Nigerian number, and tell her they had arrived Nigeria. Later, one would claim he had travelled to a place like Owerri, switch off his phone for three days to get the lady worried and afterward he would call the woman to tell her that he killed a child with his car and was remanded in prison. The lady who believed this would come to the prison and find him there. He would then claim that he had his container somewhere and needed some money to pay people and all that, and then the woman would begin to pay. Sometimes, when they needed money, they could go through the warders who would go and collect money from the girls. However, the warders never did anything free for them.

Checking jail break

“I observed that clamping all the inmates together regardless of their offences helped in checking jail breaks. At a certain time, there was fire outbreak, then the inmates broke the ceiling, the doors and the iron bars using those big musical instruments to break the burglary proof. And within ten minutes everybody was outside the cell. Then, some inmates with serious charges said it was an opportunity to escape, but others on bailable offences rose against it. There was a disagreement among us all, and without agreement, jail break can never work. That was the reason the prison authorities put us together which was an advantage to them.

Smuggling weed, dangerous drugs

“There was nothing like helping the inmates to develop or learn one trade or the other inside the prison. The carpentry workshop was not equipped, people just registered there so they could be allowed to come outside. The provosts were allowed to stay outside the cell till nightfall. Whenever they wanted to carry out dubious deals or smuggle drugs or Indian hemp inside the prison, all the inmates would be sent inside with the exception of the provosts who joined in smuggling some bags into the cells.”

IPOD and Boko Haram inmates

“I met members of the IPOB when they clashed with the police and the army. 72 of them, both male and female were brought on the orders of the court. Six of them were in my cell. But the warders pampered them even as they refused to eat the food provided in the prison as separate arrangements were made for them.

Native doctors as inmates

There were also native doctors in the prison. There was one in our cell. The warders assisted them to bring in fetish materials which they used and also sent out things for them. The warders would collect twenty percent of whatever money that came in from such venture. If the family of an inmate should bring money, the warders would not give the money to the inmate, rather, the inmate would register it and agree to part with twenty percent of the money. Money was usually paid on installments.

Killing complainants

Inside the prison, I saw how inmates, with the use of phones, planned how to kill the complainants in the case that brought them to prison and when they succeeded, they would celebrate. There was the case of one native doctor who was serving a jail term. His house was destroyed by the people in his community who were fed up with his criminal activities. The native doctor was said to be involved in preparing charms for both armed robbers and the police but one day, he killed the wrong person and the whole community came after him. They burnt down his house and sent him to prison. However, while inside the prison, he succeeded in eliminating all those who were involved in destroying his house except the traditional ruler of the town. The native doctor had however been boasting openly that he would personally kill the traditional ruler as soon as he came out of prison. The police officer who investigated his case came to the prison one day to appeal to him to spare the life of the traditional ruler. This was after two of his sons reportedly died under mysterious circumstances. But the native doctor rejected his passionate pleas boasting that he would only spare the traditional ruler momentarily but would surely take his pound of flesh.

Bitter tales against SARS

When the news got into the prison that Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, had been scrapped, the inmates went into jubilation before they later found out that SARS was only reformed. Many of them had bitter stories against SARS, as they believed that members of SARS were armed robbers just like them but when anything happened, SARS members would treat them as if they were not into the same deeds. According to the inmates, it was most painful that SARS would arrest members of their gang, torture and kill them and afterwards, remove some vital parts of their

 


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