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Welcome To Ikoyi Prisons

Published by Nairaland on Sun, 14 Aug 2016

Visit is free.' That is the first thing you see as you walk into the waiting area of Ikoyi Prisons. It is on an A4 sheet pasted on the wall; black and white; possibly, Times New Roman font, size 28.The mocking nature of those 3 words hit me when I enter the waiting area. On my left are two benches with several people sitting on them'''male and female. Across from me, close to a window at the other end of the waiting area is a desk with two prison officials sitting on chairs and attending to four people in front of them. I leave the nylon bag with the food I got for my brother at Chicken Republic on Awolowo Road on the last bench and join the queue in front of the officials' desk.'Number 47,' official one behind the desk calls out. A woman gets off one of the benches, walks to the desk and stands in front him. 'Write your full address on the letter,' he tells her and hands her a piece of paper. It gets to my turn and I tell him I want to see my brother. He rips out a sheet of paper from a 'Higher Education' notebook and writes 'number 55' at the top of it. He tells me I need to write an application to visit.'If you don't have change I can give you,' says official two sitting behind the desk when someone tells him he doesn't have change. As I turn back to sit and write the letter, I notice that on the wall facing the office, is an almost identical A4 sheet, with 'Visit is free' in landscape format. I shake my head and laugh quietly at the audacity and 'satire' unveiling right here. They don't care. They are telling you to your face, 'What are you going to do about it'' 'No pay nah make we see how you wan take enter here today.'A man is sitting on the bench where my brother's food is, holding a letter, and I ask to see it so I will know the information required for the application. As I finish asking, someone says wo ni be yen' (look at it there) as he points at a part of the wall close to the entrance. I notice a higher education sheet of paper pasted on the wall, thank him and walk there to read it. It is the format for the visit application letter.I finish writing the letter, and join the queue again. I hear official one telling a woman the minimum he will collect is '200. She pleads with him saying that's all she has. He ignores her at first, but attends to her after attending to two other people. He looks at the letter and says, 'how many people are visiting'' The woman says four. He replies, 'your money nah '800' and puts her letter away while the woman pleads with him along with her three companions. As if it's some kind of sick humour, official one starts getting upset because people are handing over money to him in plain sight. He orders everyone on the queue to put the money inside their letter, and fold it before handing over to him.When it gets close to my turn, I am thinking about how I can avoid giving him '200. So I tell him I don't have change. Official two replies, 'change dey.' There seems to be no other option. I hand over a '500 note to him and he hands backs two '200 notes and '100. I put '200 inside the letter, hand it over to official one and he tells me to sit down until my number is called.A few minutes pass and another prison official comes into the waiting area and starts calling out numbers. Mine is one of them. We are 8 people in all and he tells us to follow him. We get to the gate of the prison. As I enter, I can see the prison courtyard through another gate a few metres in front of me. There are inmates everywhere'''walking around, sitting down in small groups'''some in prison uniforms. Then I see my brother talking to his colleague who was arrested with him.On the left of the entrance is an office. In front of the office is a prison official sitting behind a desk and chair. There's a queue in front of him. I join the queue. On the wall above the desk is another paper''''Visit is free.' It gets to my turn. He asks for my phone, collects it, puts a piece of paper that has a number written on it on the back of the phone and wraps a rubber band around it. There is a duplicate piece of paper with the same number which he gives to me and tells me to hand over '100. I hand over the money and proceed to the second gate that leads to the prison yard.On the right side of the gate is a small entrance for people to walk through into the courtyard. On the left, against the wall is a man and woman, both prison officials, who search the food and other items visitors bring. If it's food, they say you should taste it. I stand in front of the woman and greet her. The man, who is busy with another visitor, finishes with the person and asks me what I have in the nylon bag. I say rice, and he says I should taste it. I don't think he really cares whether I do or not because I open the pack of food, but I don't taste it. He doesn't notice this'''I am sure all he is thinking about is the money he will get from me. Immediately I tell him I am done, he says, 'wetin dey for the boys nah'' I stick my hand into my pocket and give him '100.Everyone who has been searched is told to move to the right. A prison official holds our letters in his hands and starts calling out names. After calling out each name, he passes the letter through the courtyard gate to an inmate. I quickly realise the job of the inmate is to get the inmate who is being visited and take him to the warden's office. My brother's name is called and I enter the courtyard while the inmate sets off to get him.There's a building on the right and an entrance leading into what is the warden's office. Some inmates tell me to go in there. Inside, there's an outer office which leads to the main office. Inside this office, there are benches on all sides against the wall and benches opposite those benches with space for people to walk through. There is a desk where the warden sits facing the benches. The benches against the wall are for inmates while the others are for visitors, so you will know who is a visitor and who is not. I look around the office'''there's a calendar, the 'visit is free' poster and some pictures. I see a board for roll call. There are 2,500 inmates in Ikoyi prisons on that day.Minutes later, my brother has not come. I look around for the inmate who went to get him. I spot the guy, we make eye contact and I signal with my hand that he should come close. When he does, I say, 'you never see am' Hin dey sit on top that stone wey dey that side,' pointing to the part of the courtyard where I saw my brother. 'Hin wear brown native.' He heads out again.Moments after, my brother walks in. He sits down and tells me everything that happened in court, including the bail conditions. 'Do everything you can to get me out of here tomorrow, he says, after the narration. I tell him I will do my best.Today is Sunday.https://medium.com/@iskminov/welcome-to-ikoyi-prisons-part-one-d7570d7bcaa8#.khfve742p
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