It is no longer news that thousands of Nigerians, mostly youths, are languishing in various prisons and police cells across the country for minor offences which could have expeditiously dispensed with by our law courts.
These persons are confined behind prison walls for very long periods of time just because they cannot afford to pay the required fines for the civil offences they committed.
Stories have been told of inmates who have been incarcerated over crimes they did not commit, yet because of some circumstances, they were kept in prison.
The situation is also exacerbated by the slow judicial process in the country which has caused delays in the quick dispensation of justice for those standing trials.
The result, of course, is that prisons in the country are over congested thereby stretching prison facilities and causing government to spend monies to maintain prisoners who have no business been there.
To further worsen their predicament, these unfortunate persons are subjected to very hellish and inhuman conditions which are common trademarks of prisons in the country.
Akwa Ibom state is not insulated from this bug as several indigenes and non-indigenes of the state are being held in prisons across the state over minor civil cases.
Dissatisfied with the situation, the lawmaker representing Onna State Constituency in the State House of Assembly, Hon (Otuekong) Nse Essien, intervened recently in freeing 19 inmates in the Uyo prison.
Known for his overflowing milk of human kindness, Hon Essien, who is also the Deputy Chief Whip of the State House of Assembly, ensured that the prisoners were left off the hook and asked to “go and sin no more”.
Essien, explained that it was against civilized norms that youths who are the life wire and productive force of every nation should be allowed to expend their lives wastefully in prison.
According to the lawmaker, “the gesture became necessary in order to help the 19 youths to make meaning out of their lives”.
He said he could not fathom the reasons for imprisoning the youths who were convicted for minor civil offences and were required to pay freed to pay various fines as punishment for their crimes.
The Authority can also confirm that Essien has a passion for giving meaning and essence to the lives of youths as evident in his several interventions in ensuring that their lives are not wasted.
He demonstrated similar a gesture last in 2015 when he freed five inmates from the Uyo prison. He doesn’t just ensure that they regain freedom; he also preaches the gospel of character and attitudinal reformation for those still in prison.
At his recent intervention, the lawmaker enjoined the federal government to make moves towards reforming the nation’s prisons to become centres where sound character could be molded and skills imparted to inmates.
Essien, who was recently conferred with the traditional title of Obong Unwana (the shining light) of his Ikot Akpan Nko community, for his philanthropic gestures, said he would stop at nothing to show love to the less privileged in the society.
He stressed the need for reforms that would make prisons to be centres for character molding, instead of “a place where people go with the mindset of punishment”
“Prisons should be seen as reform centres instead of a place where culprits go to become hardened criminals and cultist”, he stressed.
The legislator also took time off to organize a football competition for the freed inmates as a way of adding pep to the ceremony.
The ex-prisoners who participated in the football tournament where happy to have regained their freedom courtesy of the lawmaker and also for enlivening the ceremony with a football tournament.