By Dr. Johnson Greg
While the return of Senator Orji Uzor Kanu continues to trend in the media, little is known about some of the benevolent activities of the Senator during the time he was in prison. But ask any inmate or staff of the Kuje correctional custodial center and you will receive the same mixed feelings of sadness and satisfaction. They are sad because they are losing the various benefits the entire prison community received from the Senator while he was there, and at the same time they are satisfied that the man of the people is now free. And as if a parting gesture, Senator Kalu paid 6 hours of daily electricity supply to the prisons for one month after he left the prison. He also left money for food and drinks for the entire 1000 inmate population, and extra for the staff.
A former inmate of Kuje prison, Mr. Musa Bakura Abdulahi, who was released from the prison two weeks ago courtesy of Senator Kalu’s intervention, explained how he became one of the 29 inmates released after Senator Orji Uzor Kalu intervened in their cases.
Mr. Abdulahi is a 30-yearly old man who hailed from Kastina State. According to him, he was 2nd year student of political science at Bayero University when he was arrested 6 years ago. He has been remanded in Kuje prison while undergoing trial. In June of 2019, the court granted him bail but he was not able to meet the terms of his bail. He stayed in prison for a year longer despite that he had been admitted to bail, a common experience of many inmates.
A few days after Senator Kalu arrived in Kuje Prison he embarked on a wide range of charitable acts of compassion to assist inmates, especially those not from wealthy families. The Senator dramatically improved power supply to the inmates. Instead of 5-hours daily power supply to the prison community, he made it 11 hours. By this alone, he eased the lives of the inmates, as well as staff. It meant more power to pump water for the inmates, more electricity for the library, church and mosque and the prison clinic. Also, he bought several water tanks for the inmates. By all these, the Senator significantly reduced the hardship endured by inmates as they haul water over long distances across the prison compound.
The most remarkable of Senator Kalu’s assistance was to help indigent inmates meet their terms of bail or to pay the fines that kept them in prison. In the last one week of his time in prison, 29 inmates regained their freedom through his generosity. Apart from this number, he had previously intervened to assist many other inmates by paying their lawyers fees or helping those without lawyers to get legal representation. Also, countless number of inmates were able to get medicine and medical supplies through the Senator’s interventions. These are without listing several occasions he caused food to be supplied to the inmates in addition to their prison rations.
Of the 29 inmates, 13 were Muslims while 16 were Christians. As another beneficiary, Mr. Ikechukwu Ogbonna, who spoke to us explained it, though Senator Kalu is a devout Catholic, who says the Grace even to drink water, he did not discriminate against any religion. He treated all equally regardless of whether you’re a Christian or Muslim and regardless of your Christian denomination. As Mr. Ogbonna put it, “The man doesn’t really care where you came from or your religion. He only wants to hear your personal story and the challenges you face. And he helps you”.
Beyond his acts of generosity while in Kuje prison, Senator Kalu will be looking for ways to help as many Nigerians as possible who face various challenges in the justice sector. In his position as a serving Senator, he could become the much needed big voice for the reform of Nigeria’s backward justice system. It is clear that’s where his heart is – to help the suffering people of his country.