Posted by By TUNDE OYELEYE on
Criminals like Oyenusi, Babatunde (the robber who wore white lace to the firing squad), Lawrence Anini, Sunday Osunbor & Co, will be nothing compared to what is brewing among ex-convicts of this ever-increasing sophisticated generation ...
– Rev. Gabriel Oyediji of Compassion Ministry
Criminals like Oyenusi, Babatunde (the robber who wore white lace to the firing squad), Lawrence Anini, Sunday Osunbor & Co, will be nothing compared to what is brewing among ex-convicts of this ever-increasing sophisticated generation if immediate steps are not taken to rehabilitate them and make them acceptable to their society, says Rev Gabriel Oyedeji, the Senior Pastor of Compassion Ministry, located at Egbeda, Lagos.
He told Daily Sun why this is so.
Colony of criminals
Lagos alone can boast of over 10 colonies of ex-convicts. In the daytime, they are the dreaded agberos who manned the various Lagos bus stops and forcefully control motor parks like Napoleon, the French army general on campaign. At night, they change into what they were before. Petty thiefs, muggers, pimps and actual robbers.
From prison yard to where?
From our interaction with them at Ojuelegba, we discovered that most of the people living there are guilty of one offence or the other for which many have served jail sentences. Unfortunately, after their release, they have nowhere to go back to. Stigmatised by relations, abandoned by friends, these unfortunate men who only stumbled once in life, are seen as danger by all and sundry.
Unable to find a place of rest and abode to re-plan their lives, they remember those they met in prison who are holed up in one of the many crime colonies around. There, they are welcome with wine, women and ready cash. No ex-convict who had suffered deprivation for years will turn his back on such rousing welcome. From there, they learn more skill and move from grade to grade in crime.
For about three years now, we have been involved in campaign for the homeless. Under the project, we spend a night out with them. After preaching and giving to them what we have, we stretch out ourselves on the concrete and tarred floors to spend the night. At outreach like this, we discovered that many of them loathe their conditions. They want to be free, do decent jobs and contribute to the progress of the society too, like you and I.
Some of them have skills in one profession or the other. Some are trained artisans while some are school drop-outs, largely due to lack of fund. Some are orphans, rejected by family members.
We discussed with them only to find their conscience at war with what they are doing. Do you know why they smoke, take hard drugs and drink heavily? It is to kill that Godly voice in them and be emboldened to carry out crimes.
Despite their lamentations of a decaying life, there is nowhere to run to. All Godly roads are blocked while Satanic doors are widely open to them. Those who needed money to restart life lack the fund. Who wants to befriend or be seen with elewon (ex-convict), the society will say. It is only he who has prepared his coffin that will loan money to a Kirikiri ex-convict.
Why the negative shoulder
The problem basically is not in the men but the system. Right from when they are arrested for one crime or the other by the police, the fire experience starts.
Hell on earth is the best way to describe a police cell. Days, weeks, months and even years are spent behind bars by suspects. A suspect should have a level of freedom. But not so here. Before you know it, he is reduced to pants or knicker only and push into the midst of others who are already filled with bitterness. A visit to a police station will tell you the story better.
In prison, they meet hardened criminals from all over the country. What transpires there is exchange of ideas. The weak ones are made to be strong while the masters are equipped to be super robbers on release.
Let’s start their rebuilding, remoulding and reintegration right from the prison gates. Ex-convicts should be released to government welfare officers, not to the streets.
The welfare department should take the responsibility of the three Rs I mentioned earlier. I mean rebuilding, remoulding and reintegration. They are the ones who should release the ex-convicts to the family members directly and do the job of monitoring them for at least six months.
The welfare department should be saddled with proper training and retraining of the ex-convicts during their stay with them to guarantee the society, a man who is now sound in soul, spirit and body. Churches and mosques too should get involved in helping in integrating them back into the society. This is the real meaning of being your brothers’ keeper.
Mission to the homeless
My ministry got involved through divine leading and we thank God that He has not disappointed us. Most of those we picked and those who followed us from Ojuelegba are now undergoing one rehabilitation course or the other. With God’s provisions, we have even gone ahead to provide accommodation for some.
Our resources cannot meet the needs of this people. We are still a growing ministry, just four years old. We therefore appeal to donors to reach these needy people through us. Our church is along Egbeda road.
Many are out there who want to help the needy but the fear of fraudulent people have kept them off. With what we are doing, which can be inspected physically, we assure that your generous donations will find its right usage.
I want the government too to join in this noble campaign. At the end of the day, all of us would have succeeded at clearing our cities of area boys and girls with crime reduced to the barest minimum.
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