This is a series about life in Afokang prison Calabar by Agba Jalingo.
Agba Jalingo was remanded in prison custody for 145 by Justice Simon Amobeda.
Prior to arraignment, he was detained in a Police black facility for 34 days. In this episode he reflects on the preparation of the facility to tackle the COVID-19 pandemc.
Rikers Island top doctor warned yesterday of the rapidly rising number of infections in the city’s jail, in New York. In just 12 days, Ross MacDonald, the jail’s Chief Physician, said confirmed cases at Rikers Correctional Facility had soared from one to nearly 200.
My mind quickly jumped to Afokang prison in Calabar. My temporary home in the recent 6 months.
A facilty that was built to hold 400 inmates but now housing between 750-800 inmates. A facilty lacking all the basics required to prevent COVID-19, yet exposed to contraction.
It is heart warming that authorities in the prison have suspended visits to the facility in the face of the prevailing situation. But that does not eliminate the threat posed by staffers who come from home to work in the facility everyday. They relate and mix with the inmates and pose a real threat in an environment with congested cells.
Some single awaiting trial cells of 20/40ft, hold up to 85 – 90 inmates who all use the same crampy single toilet and bathroom.
Some inmates are locked up for months without even staring outside their cells unless they have N50 or even N30 sometimes, to pay the Warders in charge to be opened out.
Once in months, the Chief Warder decides to bring them out in a single file to sit out as you are seeing in that attached picture. You must be cladded in an underpants unless you are a cell official. They allow them sit for 15-30 minutes and they are filed back inside their cells with whips, until recently when the new Deputy Comptroller stopped the use of whips and flogging in the yard.
How do you practice social distancing and isolation in such an environment? Remember the awaiting trial inmates are innocent until proven guilty. Even for the convicts, they are also lawfully deserving of protection from all forms of harm while in custody.
Washing of Hands:
Water is an expensive commodity in Afokang prison. Inmates contribute money which we give to our various Cell Marshals who in turn deliver to the General Marshal who then arrange for diesel to power the generator that helps pump water for the yard.
Anytime the generator is bad, and it always goes bad, there is a small generator that uses PMS. Inmates still have to contribute money to buy the PMS. The smaller generator was bought by the Chief of Staff to Governor Ayade, Martin Orim when he celebrated his last birthday with the inmates in Afokang. Before then, the problem was even worse.
Everyday by 4pm, the generator comes on, water begins to rush from the only two faucets available and a massive crowd gathers in front of those tanks you are seeing in the attached picture, haggling to get water in their buckets. There is no day we don’t have a fight among inmates.
There is a small underground reservoir that was constructed by the financial assistance of an inmate who wouldn’t want me to name him, where water is collected but its usually not enough.
At times like this, Government should:
1. Deploy additional specialized medical personnel and testing kits for the prison clinic immediately.
2. Provide Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) including sanitizers and face masks to the yard immediately.
3. Provide a budget for fuelling of the generator in the prison and/or make arrangement for replacement or repair of the diesel generator, make arrangement for delivery of diesel to the yard daily to ensure regular flow of water in the yard.
4. Deliberately intensify sensitization amongst the inmates.
The inmates are worried!!!!!
Citizen Agba Jalingo.
Citizen Agba Jalingo is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch and writes from Lagos State.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Agba Jalingo and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
Since You Are Here, Support Good Journalism
CrossRiverWatch was founded on the ideals of deploying tech tools to report in an ethical manner, news, views and analysis with a narrative that ensures transparency in governance, a good society and an accountable democracy.
Everyone appreciates good journalism but it costs a lot of money. Nonetheless, it cannot be sacrificed on the altar of news commercialisation.
Consider making a modest contribution to support CrossRiverWatch's journalism of credibility and integrity in order to ensure that all have continuous free access to our noble endeavor.