Sep 8, 2017

My Kirikiri Prison Tour |Adedunmade Onibokun

On Thursday, 7th September, 2017, I had a tour of all 3 (Three) Kirikiri prisons located in the Apapa area of Lagos. My tour guide for the day was Ahmed Adetola – Kazeem, a colleague, friend, Mandela Washington Fellow and Executive Director of Prisoners' Rights Advocacy Initiative (PRAI),a non-governmental organization providing pro-bono legal and rehabilitation services to prison inmates.

I had previously discussed my firm’s interest in offering pro bono legal services to inmates on the awaiting trial list and Ahmed had invited me to join him on his next visit to the prisons. PRAI had recently organized a skill acquisition programme in the prisons where inmates were thought entrepreneurial skills such as soap making and tailoring among others. The NGO is currently looking to partner with other organizations in providing a skill and facilities upgrade for the prisons. The purpose of our visit was thus to inspect the on-site facilities of the prisons and inquire from the prison authorities various ways in which PRAI could assist to bolster the facilities and skills of the prisoners. The essence of this skill and facility upgrade serves not only to allow the prisoners earn some money while incarceration but also to provide the prisoners with the requisite knowledge to earn a living upon release so as to engage and prevent them from returning to the prison. it was not uncommon to find multiple time offenders who have been in and out of prison severally. 

Though, I had always heard of Kirikiri prisons, I had never visited and was looking forward to the experience, however I was unprepared for what I saw. The closest prison experience I have had was as a NYSC Corp and Legal Aid member where it was our duty to represent prisoners pro bono in court but due to our large numbers, only a few people were allowed to enter the Ikoyi Prisons and the rest of us had to wait outside for our colleagues.

Kirikiri is made up of 3 (three) prisons, the Maximum Prison, the Female Prison and the Medium prison. Our tour began at the Maximum Prison. No one is usually allowed to take phones into the prisons so we had left ours in the car. Upon entry, we were given visitors tags and Ahmed was sure to advise me not to lose mine. Needless to say I jealously guarded my tag all through the visit.  

The tour began with a courtesy visit to the Deputy Controller of the prison who then led us on an inspection of the facilities. I had always guessed that in prisons, everyone wore a uniform and were always locked up in cells except for about an hour during the day, no thanks to Hollywood, but walking into the prison yard and seeing inmates playing football, sitting under trees and wearing normal clothes brought back memories from my secondary school, a scene from the yard could have been mistaken for my military boarding house in Nigerian Navy, Abeokuta. Inmates casually walked about their business, a church was in session, the atmosphere was calm and for a moment I actually wondered if I was really standing in Kirikiri Maximum Prison.

Ahmed who is more familiar with the officers and inmates made introductions as we moved from one point to another. I met an inmate who is currently studying for his PHD, after having bagged his Masters in prison, thanks to the Nigerian Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) which has a campus in the prison and I also got to meet my pro bono client while walking across the football field.

The Prison Workshop of the Kirikiri Maximum Prison houses several skill and acquisition centers including a Tailoring center, carpentry workshop, shoe making center, electrical engineering center and a arts and craft center currently engaging over a hundred prisoners. We had a discussion with the heads of each center to note what their respective centers needed to upgrade the recent level of facilities. We were also able to discuss with inmates whose cases we considered taking pro bono. Upon exit, I considered playing a joke on the wardens by saying I could not find my visitors tag but on second thought, I considered the joke may be too expensive and I promptly handed the tag over.

Our next stop was the Female Prison, it was surprising to see the words “home away from home” written beside the gate but on entry and in comparison with the Maximum prison, it could as well have passed for a girl’s college. Most inmates were young girls and they were scattered across the yard, some fetching water and others just playing around. In this prison, we were also given a tour of the skills center and discussed with the wardens how PRAI could be of assistance. We were also able to meet with a young lady whom my friend Ahmed is representing in court. It was sad to learn she was a 2nd time offender and it wasn't her first stint in prison. Both her parents had died and she was forced to live on the streets and fend for herself. On both occasions she had been accused of stealing. A comment from Ahmed about how she seemed to be looking better from the last time he had seen her made me wonder if this young lady was in fact happy to be in prison where she was getting 3 square meals, a bed and a roof over her head.

The Medium prison was however a different ball game and if I was protective of my visitor’s tag in the Maximum prison, here I did not even let go of it, it was in my pocket but I squeezed it regularly just to be sure it was still there. Not only were the inmates looking scarier, but with over 2800 of them awaiting trial and a general population of over 3500 inmates in a prison built for only 1700 people, you could feel their suffering in the air. Inmates were begging for money at every turn and you could feel their stares as we were given a tour of the skills facilities.

The Medium prison has a farm, a poultry, a soap making center, a tailoring center, a barber’s shop and a disinfectant making center where the prison produces its own Izal which is used to disinfect the prison rooms in a bid to fight the prevailing rate of skin diseases among the inmates. An inspection of these facilities showed that the prison leadership was doing its best to empower the prisoners and would be needing all the support from private organizations and individuals.

Human and material resources are required to upgrade the skills and facilities of the Prisons. Little items such as carpentry, tailoring, bead making, leather making and electrical repair tools are some of the things required to help upgrade the facilities of the Prison skill acquisition training centers. Human resource such as business and entrepreneurship experts are also required to help impart knowledge to these inmates. A little effort from you or your organisation can go a long way in the efforts to reform the lives of these prisoners. 

For more information on how you can contribute to the efforts of PRAI in helping to build the skills and facilities in the prisons, please contact Prisoners' Rights Advocacy Initiative (PRAI) via www. or  0807 747 0336 / 0818 559 4374.

Dunmade Onibokun
Principal Counsel
Adedunmade Onibokun & Co. 



  1. This is serious that needs urgent attention, we need people to support the welfare of the inmates,

  2. This is serious that needs urgent attention, we need people to support the welfare of the inmates,


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