By Chinonso Alozie, Owerri
An exclusive investigation by Vanguard revealed that from the thousands of fleeing inmates some were said to have taken up menial jobs within and outside the Owerri metropolis to raise money.
Vanguard was told that the choice areas for these inmates were brothels, motor parks, market square, even as some were said to have started the hawking trade. Also, some were said to have taken refuge in uncompleted buildings as their home as well as mingle around nightlife hotspots.
Eyewitnesses narrated their experiences to Vanguard with the said inmates. The places visited by Vanguard include Control post along Onitsha road, Whethdral roundabout up to Poly Junction, IMSU junction as well as Irete axis on Owerri/Onitsha road.
According to reports received by Vanguard, some notorious inmates do not want to go to their village, because they are afraid that they would be reported to the security agencies. Therefore, they engage in pick-pocketing at night to raise money quickly for themselves.
Some on the other hand are looking to raise little money through cleaning jobs as part of starting afresh, just as some of them said they needed money to go back to their villages, as their people are not even aware that they were in prison for many years and that they were imprisoned by intimidation and false allegations against them.
Those who said they had an encounter with some of the inmates, one Chike, known as “iron” said: “Our happiness is that my guy is back from prison thanks to the people who released them. My brother all the way from Ebonyi came to do hawking business and was arrested that they demolished Eke Ukwu market in Owerri. He committed no crime. We did not know he was in prison.”
Another drama was said to have played out in Control post, a group of said to be “bad boys” jubilated over their freed friends one of which was said to have been arrested in connection with an alleged robbery/kidnapping between Control post, World Bank and Hospital junction along Owerri/ Port Harcourt road.
They said: “Our men are back. We are drinking and enjoying. Work begins, who be police. Signal my man is back. They can’t come out now, later in the night. Men can’t go back to the village. That one no-follow.”
A businessman, in Irete, who did not want his name mentioned said: “Some of these inmates are innocent. Two of them were in my friends business premises. They opened up and said they were among those freed and explained how they got into prison. My brother, you will shed tears.
“Our people are suffering. They pleaded to my friend, that they want to join his boys in offloading bags of cement and clean up his business premises in order to raise money and go home. They said they are from Ngor Okpala local government area and have been in prison for more than 15 years. But my friend gave them N5000 and gave them food and that they should go home.”
In another encounter, a source, owner of a business/entertainment outfit around one of the nightlife areas in Owerri, who chose to remain anonymous said: “Is it not the prisoners that now work as cleaners? They are responsible ladies just that they look famished and malnourished, but with time they will be Ok. What they need is just rehabilitation as some of them complained that they did nothing that should warrant their imprisonment.
“Some of them are now in market places, motor parks as cleaners, some doing hawking business. It is not everything we see we say sometimes. You see, they are ready to wash plates. Some of them have repented. Some of them did not commit any offence. This is is wicked country.”