While the return of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu continues to trend in the media, little is known about some of the benevolent activities of the former Governor of Abia State during the time he was in prison. But ask any inmate or staff of the Kuje Correctional Custodial Centre 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 representative of Abia North Senatorial District 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, Kalu paid for six hours of daily electricity supply to the prison for one month after he left the prison. He also left money for food and drinks for the entire 1,000 inmate population, and extra for the staff.
A former inmate of Kuje prison, Musa Bakura Abdulahi, who was released from the prison two weeks ago courtesy of Kalu’s intervention, explained how he became one of the 29 inmates released after the intervention of the Chief Whip of the Senate in their cases.
Abdulahi is a 30-year-old man who hails from Kastina State. According to him, he was a second year student of Political Science at Bayero University Kano when he was arrested six 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 five 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 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, Ikechukwu Ogbonna, who spoke to us, explained that 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 are a Christian or Muslim and regardless of your Christian denomination. As Ogbonna puts 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 is always 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.
. Dr. Greg writes for EculawNews.