Headfort Foundation, a non-governmental organization offering free legal services for persons awaiting trials in some of the correctional centres in the country, on Friday marked its third year anniversary in Lagos.
The foundation which came into existence in 2018 have successfully secured the release of 244 inmates awaiting trials at the various centres in Lagos.
With physical presence in three states of the country – Lagos, Ogun and Ekiti – the foundation is looking forward to having their services in all states of the country including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja in the coming years to further help fight for victim of the ineffective justice system in the country.
The foundation has received international recognition with its activities reported by international media organization like BBC and Aljazeera and its founder, Mrs Oluyemi Orija, named in BBC 100 most influential women of 2021.
While the government has been commended for their efforts for catering the needs and effectively rehabilitating female inmates at the various centres and rehabilitating those released more is expected through partnership between the government and organisations like Headfort, Orija said in an interview with MAP News Network.
She urged the government to address the issue of congestion in the correctional centres across the country and also make available adequate rehabilitation programmes for inmates.
She said: “I go to prison often and we have a collaboration with the prison system, and with my experience I know that rehabilitations are going on especially in the female centers and it is possible there because it is not particularly congested, but for our male centers unfortunately I won’t say so much is being done and this is the reason – how do you rehabilitate 3,000 inmates in a 800 capacity with less than a 100 officials.
“What kind of rehabilitation do you want to do? It’s tough, it’s hard, and my expectations from the government is that more is done and the government cannot do it alone and that’s why we have NGOs, they can collaborate with the government to ensure rehabilitation.”
On the part of the foundation in ensuring that inmates when they are out are fully reintegrated into the society, Orija said her organisation came out with a project ex-inmate Support Initiative a project tailored at providing skill acquisition to ex convicts and also for those who want to continue with their education the foundation link them up with their donors to further their education.
“Some of our inmates do attend online lectures from National Open University to do some courses, so we can do more on education.
“Some people are not interested going back to school they can take them up on skill acquisition but again the question is even this arrangement is done for convict now what about the 74 percent of inmates who are awaiting trial they have not been convicted yet so at the end of the day they might not partake in all of this arrangement put together by the government and that is why in Headfort Foundation we have a project called the Exinmate Support Initiative.
“We are not just interested in bringing you out of prison, we are interested in your life after prison so we have a relationship with our beneficiaries and we ensure that they are sensitised on stigmatisation because we know our society people stigmatise, the fact that you’ve been to prison, you’re an ex convict so we train them on how to handle this situation.
“We also empower them. Some already have a skill, they want to start a business so we run around for donations and we support them with their businesses. For some they want to go back to school we have some of our donors who are interested in adopting our ex inmate who are interested in going back to school.
“We have a student in Open University currently being sponsored by one of our sponsors and that’s what we are doing as an organisation to ensure that people who are taken out do not go back into committing crimes or for someone who was innocent initially do not go and commit crime because its easier to say I didn’t commit crime and I went to prison I should have continued committing the crime so with this perspective that is what we’re doing in Headfort Foundation under the Exinmate Initiative.
Headfort Foundation Launches My Rights, My Freedom Project
The foundation has launched the My Rights, My Freedom project – an initiative aimed at enlightening the people about their rights as Nigerians.
The projects seeks to publish a book that contains the Fundamental Human Rights of Nigerian citizens as enshrined in the 1999 constitution as amended, which sensitive Nigerians in all the 774 Local Government Areas.