Investigative Reporter Fisayo Soyombo who won the award for People Journalism Prize for Africa 2019 (PJPA) has donated the N500,000 cash prize of the award to prison inmates who are awaiting trial.
Undercover Journalists Soyombo and his co-winner Kiki Mordi were both commended for exposing the impunity that goes on in Nigerian prisons and the unlawful Sex for Grades policy adopted by many lecturers in West African tertiary institutions.
Soyombo in his acceptance speech revealed that the prison which was built to accommodate 800 inmates housed over 3000 people, out of which 500 inmates were actually convicted for various crimes. The remaining 2500 inmates were awaiting trial. He disclosed majority of them “have no business in prison”.
“I like to announce that I am donating the N500,000 cash reward to The Justice Project (TJP), a cause for the release of awaiting-trial inmates who have no business in prison. And, trust me, there are scores of them. My three-part investigation may have focused on the deep-seated corruption tarnishing the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria, but that isn’t the only frailty of the system,” Soyombo said.
“One other is the huge population of awaiting-trial inmates, many of them actually in prison for trivial offences and others not even deserving of detention much less imprisonment in the first place. At Ikoyi Prison, for example, more than 3,000 inmates inhabit a prison built for 800. Of these 3,000, less than 500 are convicts; the number of awaiting-trial inmates usually hovers around 2,500.
“While I am not in a position to help the prisons service clean up its corrupt house, by donating this money, I can at least help to kick-start a process I’m hoping can snowball into prison decongestion through the freedom of scores of awaiting-trial inmates. The funds, to be managed by TJP, will be used to pay stipends to lawyers who will visit prisons to track the cases, ensure more inmates have their days in court, represent the inmates, settle fines where necessary and provide support to the inmates.
“Aside focusing on the possibility of innocence and frivolity of cases against inmates, women with babies and inmates with young families back home will receive special consideration.”