*Charity organizations shocked, prepare legal action, petition to National Assembly
*One Love Foundation appeals to faith groups, civil societies for dialogue
By Jethro Amadi, Ecowas Ojodu & Haruna Alli, January 22, 2022
The president and founder of One Love Foundation, Edo born property developer and human rights activist, Chief Patrick Eholor, has appealed to civil societies, Islamic and Christian organizations to consider dialogue and shelve petitions addressed to the National Assembly and legal actions against the Controller-General of the Nigeria Correctional Service, Mr. Haliru Nababa.
Our reporters learnt that the actions of the civil society bodies, Islamic and Christian religious groups arose from what they described as “irrational and inhumane policy memos” from the Controller-General of the Nigeria Correctional Service, Mr. Haliru Nababa, to its state commands across the country.
The memos, according to them, sternly prevent state commands of the service from receiving or facilitating any form of charity donations to prison inmates by public spirited citizens and humanitarian organizations unless donors first pass through a complex, costly process of applying to the Controller-General in far-away Abuja headquarters and obtaining his express approval.
An aggrieved trustee who is head of a popular NGO in Calabar, Cross River State, and also a serving lawmaker condemned and labeled the process as “unreasonable hindrance.” According to him, it is an unnecessary obstacle against citizens who wish to extend genuine acts of charity to prison inmates.”
The lawmaker queried further, “How can a mosque or church, a small philanthropic organization or an individual based in some far rural village in Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Osun state or Kano who wished to donate say #10,000 or much less, or fairly used clothes to the inmates of their nearest state prison facility have to travel to meet the Controller-General, Mr. Nababa, in Abuja with an application to do good? They have to further wait for a long indefinite time to get the CG’s approval before the donor can present gifts or skills empowerment training to inmates. State commands of the correctional service should be considered trained and intelligent enough to assess genuine philanthropy and to facilitate such between the public and Nigeria prison inmates.”
When our reporters pointed out that the current Controller-General Haliru Nababa apparently inherited the policy from his predecessor, an NGO operator, Mr. Babatunde Jimetta said, “The new CG Mr. Nababa took over administration of the service since February 18, 2021. If he met a bad policy or memo that is anti-Quran, anti-Bible, anti-people, anti-public and anti-charity, he should dismantle such unproductive policies and memos of his predecessor. His predecessor did not employ him to serve. He is employed with public funds to serve Nigerians’ best interest.”
The memos from Nigeria prisons headquarters in Abuja which deny members of the public from extending charity to prison inmates first came to public knowledge through an incident in Benin City, Edo State, in November 2019 during the administration of the last CG, Kebbi state born Ahmed Ja’afara.
Close to the Christmas of that year, One Love Foundation had published through various news media a programme of charity involving paying small fines for all convicts of minor offenses.
From prison correspondence documents obtained by our reporters, precisely on November 26, 2019, in pursuit of the charity programme it called “Lazarus Day,” the foundation applied to the Benin office of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCS) to pay up the judgment fines of poor convicts whom various courts had convicted and given options of fines. Unfortunately, many of such persons remained behind bars because they or their relatives were too poor to raise the small amounts to regain their freedom.
The beneficiaries listed for the programme’s maiden event that year included the elderly, women, youths of tender age and physically challenged persons. They also included hawkers of petty articles who were rounded up in the Ring Road city centre of Benin and other parts of the city by the harsh taskforces of the Governor Godwin Obaseki administration, poor hawkers who could not cash their way out of the taskforce’s raiding vans.
Unfortunately, the good intentions of the foundation were turned down based on the memos from Abuja head office. The same rejection happened again throughout the third week of January 2022 when the foundation submitted letters to various prison centers in the South-South and South-West offering to train inmates in various fields of skills acquisition for post-prison life.
Angered by these restraining memos and armed with petitions of their grievances to the National Assembly, a coalition of NGOs and civil society organizations drawn from several states of the federation approached One Love Foundation for a joint class action against the Controller-General of Nigeria Correctional Service. The class actions seek the courts to stop the CG from preventing authentic charity donations, moral education and skills acquisition training to prison inmates in all parts of the country.
In his response, the founder of One Love Foundation, Chief Patrick Eholor, thanked the NGOs and appealed to them to give the prisons service and it’s Controller-General the benefits of doubt.
He advised that they should engage the CG in a fact-finding dialogue in order to reach amicable grounds for the headquarters of the Nigeria Correctional Service to remove the memos and other impediments that prevent public charity services to rendered to inmates by public and NGOs.