20 January 2013

Nigeria: Kuje Prison Bars Journalists On Commissioner's Entourage

Journalists on the entourage of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Commissioner of the Public Complaints Commission (PCC) were on Thursday barred from attending a meeting between Kuje Prisons authorities and senior officials of the commission.

The meeting was to discuss the high number of un-convicted inmates in prison.

Those thrown out of Deputy Controller Yahaya A. Sambo's office were reporters from the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Africa Independent Television (AIT), Wazobia FM and Media Trust Limited.

The journalists, who had already mounted their gargets in the office of the Deputy Controller and recorded a few statements from the prisons' officer, were shocked when the officer received a phone call and excused himself and later returned to tell all journalists to leave his office as he only wanted to speak to the PCC officials .

Shocked by the development, FCT PCC Commissioner, Obunike Ohaegbu cut short his visit and addressed the press outside the prisons' gate before leaving the premises. In the chat, the commissioner said based on the commission's Act which mandates it to check administrative injustice, it received reports on Kuje Prisons and decided to carry out an investigation.

He said on January 3, 2013 the commission wrote the prisons authorities for a visit and the visit was scheduled for that day.

"In implementing the mandate of the commission, we are not here to witch-hunt anybody but to collaborate with the relevant government agencies to make sure that the society works fine because we are convinced that the society needs strong institutions more than individuals to make the country better," the commissioner said.

He said his entourage was on a fact finding visit to confirm the number of prisoners, the state of their accommodation, the challenges they have as well as the challenges faced by the prisons' officials in taking care of them.

"If by virtue of administrative decisions, there are prisoners here who have not been to court for the past six months and if there are such cases, then something has to be done immediately about that and it is within our powers to address administrative injustice, even within the judiciary," he added.

Our reporter noticed on a board at Kuje Prisons', that the facility had mentally sick inmates, 161 robbery suspects, 73 culpable homicide cases--four on life sentence and 10 condemned.

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