12 November 2020, The Tablet

Prisons: wash me clean, make me whole

by Patrick Egwu

Special report – 2

Prisons: wash me clean, make me whole

Sr Chioma Onyenufoh of the Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace
Photo: Patrick Egwu


Unable to afford a lawyer, a former prisoner was handed a lifeline to freedom thanks to the intervention of a Nigerian Catholic non-profit welfare organisation

When Michael Chibuike was imprisoned in Nigeria two years ago, he thought all hope was lost. His family is poor. They did not know any powerful people who could secure his release. And they could not afford a lawyer.

Then, a year ago, to his surprise, Chibuike was visited by a welfare officer. He listened to his story, and agreed to take up his case. Soon a team of lawyers was making representations on Chibuike’s behalf to the prison authorities and the Ministry of Justice. 

“I started hoping that I might be released,” Chibuike said. “I was happy because I knew I was innocent of the crime I was accused of.”

His visitors were from the Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace (Cidjap), an enterprising faith-based non-profit organisation under the administration of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu in south-eastern Nigeria. Chibuike had been arrested after a powerful member of his community accused him of conniving with other young individuals to attack him. Chibuike insisted he was innocent. After the intervention of Cidjap’s legal team, he was released from prison and reunited with his family and loved ones.

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