As part of its mission to provide channels through which people can access information and learning tools, ZODML launched a Prison Knowledge Centre (PKC) at the Ikoyi Correctional Centre on March 26. This was to complement the launch in February 2012 of a mobile library with more than two thousand books serving prisons.
The PKC has seven computers, a printer, photocopier and scanner, and over 2000 books. It is located in the newly refurbished library within the prison compound. Each computer is equipped with more than 500 e-books including the Bible and Koran, the Microsoft Office Suite, educative games such as chess and Scrabble, dictionaries and encyclopaedias.
In her welcome address, Mrs Ifeoma Esiri, Co-Chair and Trustee of ZODML, highlighted the motto of the Nigerian Prison Service – “protect society: reform the prisoner” – and how it points to two important reasons prisons exist: “Society has to be kept safe from those that would cause harm, and prisoners must leave the confines of prisons rehabilitated so that they can contribute meaningfully to their communities.” Mrs Esiri emphasised ZODML’s desire to align itself with this task and its commitment towards “channel[ling] resources to help with its realisation” in order to build “on the great foundation laid by well-meaning organisations like the Muharram Sisters’ Foundation.”
The Honourable Justice AA Phillips, Chief Judge of Lagos State, was represented by the Lagos State High Court Chief Registrar, Mr GA Safari. In his address, he was appreciative of the initiative and urged others to follow suit. He also revealed the state government’s plans to make life better for inmates, including ensuring that no one is detained beyond the 24 hours specified in the penal code and that court sittings are extended to include Saturdays.
The inmates delighted the audience with their musical and dramatic talents. There was a play performed by students of the Muharram Sisters’ Education Centre, followed by two musical performances (“I Want Freedom” by the Muharram Sisters’ band and “I Love You” by Tattoo Boy). The plot of the play was centred on freedom and justice and placed emphasis on the importance of making the most of the learning resources available at the correctional centre. The performers left no member of the audience in doubt that a lot of preparation went into the presentation and were hailed with excited applause at every interval.
The performances were followed by the official opening of the PKC, which included a tour for invited guests. The Chief Registrar spoke to the inmates already working on computers and reading about the need to work hard and make good use of the facilities.
Present at the event were representatives from various national media houses and publishers, including The Nation, Nigerian Tribune, Sun newspapers, Evans Publishers Nigeria Limited, HEBN Publishers, Macmillian Publishers and the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) International. Also in attendance were officials from the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB) and AIICO Plc. A number of officers of the correctional centre who attended included Mr Obarewo, the principal of the Muharam Sisters’ Education Centre (representing the Comptroller of Prisons, Lagos State Command, Abayomi Oguntuase) and DCP Alu Ogbonnaya Alu. While fielding questions from members of the press at the gathering, Mr Obarewo revealed that the inmates are allowed to participate in the external examinations such as WAEC and UTME through funds donated by the public. He also appealed to the government to expedite actions on the list of the students who did creditably well in the last UTME for their cases to be worked on. In his closing remarks, Mr EO Bamidele, the DCP of the Ikoyi Correctional Centre, thanked ZODML for its charitable efforts and the invited guests for making the event a success. [slideshow_deploy id='434']