No one ever prays to go to prison; however, for the popular blogger, Kemi Olunloyo, 2017 is a year that she would likely not forget in a hurry as that was the year she was remanded in custody three times.
In an exclusive chat with Saturday Beats, she recounted her experience at Port Harcourt Maximum Prison. She told Saturday Beats that even though she was locked up with criminals, they all feared and respected her to the extent that she became a gangster in prison. She said;
“I think the Port Harcourt prison is the biggest in Nigeria with 4,175 inmates – 75 women and 4,100 men – between the ages of 18 and 25. It is filled with young Nigerian men, but it is a disaster. The male inmates really worked for me and they gave me the nickname, Mummy K. I was really dealing with armed robbers without guns.
“In prison, they are nobody; they look frail with various skin diseases. They are really suffering at the male section and they ought to decongest the place. The place is filled with very dangerous people and when I was taken to the prison the second time, I saw Jay Jay, the guy who shot policemen during the Zenith Bank robbery (in Imo State) last year.
“I told him that the video went viral and that he was in serious trouble. He was the one that helped me carry my bag to the prison gate when I was leaving the first time I left the prison. At the prison, they mixed the ladies awaiting trial with those that had been convicted of their crimes. It is very rough in prison, but I was a gangster there.”
She described most inmates in Nigerian prisons as malnourished, adding that the food she and other inmates were served included ‘half-cooked’ beans every morning. She said;
“People are dying of hunger in the prison; they gave us beans for breakfast, rice for lunch and garri for dinner. The beans meals were ‘half-cooked’ with sand, hair and other objects, so we had to wash our food, pick out the beans and cook it again.
“The garri smelt of urine because it was processed very close to where the male inmates urinated. I was in Cell 1, which was for the big girls and high profile cases, while Cell 2 was for the village girls, cult members, kidnappers, sex workers, etc. Normally, we picked ladies from Cell 2 to be our helpers and they ran errands for us.
“The name of my helper was Chidinma, I am happy she is also out of the prison and she would work for me later. I would mentor her and she would later work as my personal assistant. Chidinma – the mother of two – bought a stolen phone for a cheap price on the street, but unknown to her; it belonged to a cult member that was beheaded. The police traced the phone to her and she was charged with murder. Luckily I was able to help her and she is a free woman now.”
Olunloyo said, “The prison has an infirmary and also a pharmacy; it is NGOs that provide drugs for the pharmacy. I had a massive asthma attack during my stay, but the prison did not have drugs for asthmatic patients, it was one of the prison workers that provided N1,500 that they used to buy inhaler for me. If not, I would have died there. It was after I protested that they began to stock the pharmacy with asthma drugs. The prison workers are trying but the government needs to upgrade the prison.”
Now that she is out of prison, she said that she incurred medical bills of about N7m, but had been able to raise N1.2m courtesy of Nigerians who love and sympathise with her.
“I contracted eye infections because of the dirty water that we bathed with. A two-time fraudster convicted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Chioma, attacked me and put her finger in my eyes, simply because I warned her to stop disposing her chewing gum and other dirt under my bunk whenever she came to visit her friend who was in my room.
“Since then, my eyes have not been the same. Also, when I visited the ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialists, they saw cotton wool stuck in my ears. My teeth were also damaged due to the food we were served. I have to undergo a root canal procedure. I slept on the floor for about a month because there was no bed space, the prison cells were crowded, so it was when someone was released that I got a bed space.