A Nigerian journalist, Fisayo Soyombo had been on a Prison experience series where he revealed the illicit activities going on in the Nigerian prison system.
‘Fisayo Soyombo spent 8 days in prison to track corruption in Nigeria’s criminal justice system, beginning from the moment of arrest by the Police, to the point of release by the prison.
Proceedings were well underway at Court III when we stepped into the Chief Magistrate Court, Yaba, Lagos, after my extrajudicial detention for five consecutive days at Pedro Police Station, Shomolu. It was a little after noon — or thereabouts…
The magistrate — a dark, soft-spoken, middle-aged man whose eyes often evaded the lens of his pair of glasses when talking. And after two or three other cases, mine was mentioned. His orders: remanded in prison custody, two sureties in like sum of N500,000 each, N150,000 to be paid into the Registrar’s account by each surety, sureties to be from father’s side of the family. Not long after, the court rose, to be followed by my preparations for a long and difficult journey to the prison.
On bribery for accommodation
Before the authorities take my freedom away from me, the first thing they do is give me a final semblance of it by unfettering my hands from the handcuff, as is the custom. That was just before entering the dock. Minutes later, the same man who released the handcuff returns to hand me over to a policeman who, accompanied by Zainab Sodiq, the lady posing as my sister, leads me downstairs. First stop on the ground floor is the office of the prisons service. Manning it, comfortably sitting opposite the entrance, is a gun-wielding prison warder, legs waggling, whose shirt hangs loosely on the wall inside, leaving his trunk scantily covered by a singlet. Inside that office are three more warders. The next room is a holding cell — for momentarily detaining inmates until the arrival of the prisons bus that conveys them to Ikoyi. I expect to be led to the holding cell, but I am taken into the prison’s office and encouraged to “take a seat”. What manner of magnanimity is this? I was wrong!
The three officers summon my sister. “You can have a look at that holding cell and see if it’s the kind of place a human being should stay,” one of them tells her with feigned sympathy. “Your brother can stay in our office but it will cost you N10,000.” My sister takes a moment to peep into the holding cell, then returns to bargain. The negotiating parties reach an agreement of N5,000, collected by the singlet-donning warder.
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