The Nigerian Prison Service Kirikiri has explained the reason it permitted a 300-level Mass Communication student of the University of Lagos, UNILAG Chidinma Ojukwu, and other inmates at its facilities to participate in a beauty pageant.
Ojukwu, the alleged murder suspect of the Chief Executive Officer of Super TV, Usifo Ataga June 21, 2021, is standing trial for the offence at the Lagos High Court, sitting at Tafar Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos.
The Pictures of the pageant flooded social media recently and sent tongues wagging on the propriety or otherwise of allowing non-convicts such as Miss Ojukwu to participate in the event.
The beauty pageant was held within the Kirikiri prisons on Tuesday, March 8, 2022.
Ojukwu was said to have been crowned Miss Cell 2022.
But the Prison’s Lagos State Command said that the pageant was only one of several other activities organised to mark International Women’s Day (IWD).
IWD is celebrated annually on March 8, to commemorate the social, political and economic achievements of women.
The Command’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) Rotimi Oladokun said that the pageant and all the other events were open to all female inmates, whether convicted or awaiting trial.
Oladokun, a Superintendent, said: “I haven’t seen the pictures you are talking about. But in line with International Women’s Day, the female custodial facilities commemorated International Women’s Day with inmates, various inmates without distinction or discrimination against anybody – an inmate is an inmate.
“All the inmates in different cell blocks presented various programmes. Some did theatre presentations, others drama, some poetry, some beauty pageant, some drawings, paintings, comedy. So, various blocks won. It was just like an inter-cell block event.
“There were lots of presentations. It was not an individual thing. It was just the facility’s way of trying to reform the inmates, those still in custody.
“So, that’s why they commemorated International Women’s Day, that’s why it was done in the female facility, not the male’s.”
Referring to Ojukwu, the spokesman said: “The particular inmate, I don’t know her name. There were various winners.
“The costumes were made by the inmates in the facility and some of the winners got sponsorship to pay for their UME forms, NECO, WASSCE and higher education.
Some donated libraries to us, apart from some other stationery, and welfare resources. It was not an individual event, so the prizes were collective.”
He further explained that Chidinma could have been a representative of a block.
“There were representatives for each block, so maybe the inmate you are referring to was one of such representatives, but it was not an individual event, it was a collective one commemorating International Women’s Day,” Oladokun stated.
In his reaction on his social media handle, a respectable movie Producer, Felix Duker, said, “We make skewed comparison as a people… playing football tournament is a group game…how many times have such tournaments been splashed and celebrated like a beauty contest involving a SUSPECT whose ARREST and TRIAL has generated so much controversies.
“Writing GCE or Jamb is another lame example or comparison because suspects do not write those exams… it is only available to convicts ….. reason i said in a previous post that there are different rights and privileges available to convicts and suspects
“Therefore you must realise an individual contest puts the spotlight on the individual
“I organise different types of competitions, why must she participate ? If she must participate, why must she WIN and be the centre of attention.
“Even if you must commorate INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY …. must it be a celebrity contest like a beauty peagant ? Workshops, seminars, skill acquisition etc
“Nobody is saying because you are in a correctional centre, you shouldn’t have a life rather you should have a life that shows you have fully repented of your crime and will not return to same crime
“There is a clear distinction between a SUSPECT and a CONVICT …… CHIDINMA OJUKWU is still a SUSPECT and in other climes there are different rights and privileges available to this two classes of INMATES
“As an organisation, The NIGERIAN CORRECTIONAL SERVICE has insulted the moral sensibilities of the public by splashing those pictures on the social media space when the inmate has not been convicted”.