By CrossRiverWatch Admin
Journalist and activist, Agba Jalingo, has said that his jailers made life unbearable for him at the Afokang Prison in Calabar where he was detained for 179 days.
The publisher of CrossRiverWatch, who was arrested following an allegation of treason by the Cross River State Governor Benedict Ayade, said he did not regret criticising the Governor but only regret that he didn’t start the criticism on time.
Jalingo was released on February 17, 2020, from prison custody after meeting his bail conditions.
Narrating his prison experience to The PUNCH, Jalingo said the mentality of prison officials haven’t shifted from punishment to correction despite that the name of the penal institution had been changed from the Nigerian Prison Service to the Nigerian Correctional Service.
He said he received threats even while in prison, saying his two hands were chained to a deep freezer for more than two weeks.
He said, “There was a period the State Controller of Prison, Imaikop Ndaekong, made life unbearable for me after those that arrested me mounted pressure on him to cancel a football competition I organised amongst inmates.
“He came and was shouting and abusing me saying I was an inmate and shouldn’t be organising such. He seized our trophy which I donated. The medals, jerseys, and nets were also seized.
“He ordered that I must start eating prison meals; I must not see any visitor and must make only one telephone call a day from the welfare department.
“I was served the same meal as other inmates but the food was horrible and not fit for human consumption. So, most of the time, I was on self-feeding; and my food came from outside the prison yard, from two persons who were approved by the prison authority.
“Also while I was detained before taken to Court, my hands were chained to a deep freezer for over two weeks and were unchained only when I wanted to eat or ease myself. I don’t know the reason I was chained because I was not violent and I didn’t see any inmate in chains.
“This continued until my lawyers threatened Court action against him. Those two weeks were the most excruciating for me in jail.
“However, I have no regrets that I criticised Ayade. I only regretted that I didn’t start criticising him on time. I should have started earlier.”
The 41-year-old publisher said there was massive corruption within the walls of the prison yard, alleging that the officials were even more corrupt than the Police.
“There is massive corruption within the walls of the prison yard. The Warders are even more corrupt than the Police. Extortion of inmates and their visitors is topnotch. Beginning from the gate where a notice says ‘visit is free’, the Warders collect visit fees with impunity. The little that is given to inmates is also extorted by the Warders and cell marshals.
“There are also no facilities in the prison yard to correct anyone. The mentality in the prison hasn’t shifted from punishment to correction. Warders still think their role is to punish the inmates and not to correct them.”
Jalingo further said the Afokang Prison which was originally built for 400 housed up to 800 inmates during his stay, adding that each cell was congested as some held up to 85 inmates.
He said that though there was a clinic in the facility there were no medications, stressing that the prison was not ready to handle an epidemic like the novel Coronavirus disease.
“There are no medicines in the prison clinic. I really think the facility is unprepared for any epidemic. Not just Coronavirus. The clinic has no facility and equipment to treat any serious ailment. The clinic is big enough but it has no beddings, no medications and the hostile attitude of the staff was world-class.
“There was one doctor who came around on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He only made prescriptions and inmates were expected to send for the drugs themselves as there was no dispensary in the facility. Even the drugs donated by NGOs and others were allegedly stolen by the clinic staff who own medicine stores in town,” he narrated.
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