The 2017 edition of the family weekend annual general meeting of the prison fellowship Nigeria was attended by 897 delegates from 12 state chapters held under the chairmanship of Mr. Israel Olorundare, SAN and Lt. Gen Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau (Rtd.), minister of Interior. The theme: Let your light so shine (Matthew 5:16).
The proceedings of the opening day commenced with opening prayers led by Pastor Sule Bamigboye, Chief of Staff to the Executive Director, followed by a welcome address by Barrister Benson Iwuagwu, Executive Director, who admonished everyone to be focused, the Executive Director then introduced the first speaker for the day.
The opening paper was presented by Dr. Uju Agomoh, Founder/Director, Prison Rehabilitation & Welfare Action (PRAWA) titled Project Funding And Partnership Development In Pf Nigeria. Dr Agomoh made the following points in her presentation:
We are wired with a purpose
- Everyone who is here need to be able to discover their unique assignments even though we are all prison ministers.
- She recommended that everyone should take time to read the purpose driven life by Rick Warren.
- We need to ask what we love to do and the kind of things that we desire is also an indicator to the assignments that God has given us.
- We need to ask what our abilities are, you will discover that people will be commending you on those abilities and has nothing to do with your education.
- Your experiences in life are also an indicator to your assignments especially your painful experiences.
Need for diligence
- Good work attracts to you more work and with it more authority.
- Many time we want all the goodies and not the work, we therefore need to be more diligent
Every assignments God gives us is for His own glory
- Never ever share Gods glory because it is so easy to attempt to share His glory more so that in our land we are very flamboyant.
- When God gives you, an assignment don’t use it assignment to satisfy your own needs.
- For everything you do you need to input some level of professionalism.
- In everything there is what is called low-cost, low-cost, you need to look at your membership and see the skill sets that you have.
- You need to develop the habit of assessing the environment of where you are going to impart (How to assess the needs in prison).
- You must learn to invest your own funds in the work.
The Second presentation was by the Comptroller of the FCT Command, His paper was titled: Building community relations among prison stakeholder, prison inmates, prison volunteers and other social agencies – CP FCT Command
In his presentation, he put forward the following points:
- In Genesis 29:30, Joseph was kept in a prison, prison is as old as human existence.
- The prisons were created to keep away those who could not live consistently with the norms of the society.
- Secure and humane confinement is not enough.
Aims of imprisonment
- Deterrent Theory: Imprisonment is essential if potential offenders are to be kept from committing crimes.
- Retribution: Offender must suffer for the crime.
- Protection: The society is protected from the criminals. Society is protected while Crime is also protected from reprisal attacks.
- Reformative: a. b. c.
Goals of Prisons in Nigeria
- NPS is empowered to keep ATM and CM alike.
- The law empowers the production of prisoners at any point in time.
- Administration of prison farms and generate income for government
How do we build community relationship between inmates, volunteers, officers, etc.
- The prison is a place with rules and regulations that apply to different protagonists.
- Present day penology is about reformation less on the punitive.
- Prisons need the collaborative efforts of the public as no one can do it alone.
- One of the strategic goals of NPS is to use education as a tool for reformation.
- PF Chapter has paid for WAEC of inmates.
- The idea is to have qualified technicians train inmates. Farm centres are being remodelled. FARM TO FEEDING program whereby the prisons grow their own food.
- Onesimus and TPJ are some of the collaborative works.
- British High Commission and others have addressed the training demands apart from the in-house training.
- NPS has been important in collaborating with other groups which have much stake in insurgency, vandalization of pipelines etc.
- Congestion of prisons: Over 70% of prison population are awaiting trial. Prison is for the convicted and not the convicted. A congested prison puts pressure on the officers and the infrastructure. This cannot enhance the relationship between the various stakeholders. The government however is building new prisons to meet best international practices.
- Stigmatization: When they are rejected by the family, the employers and the society, then they are given no option than to go back to crime.
- Mutual Suspicion: This hinders the collaboration between prison officials, inmates and volunteers.
- Nigeria should be guided by the rules of general applicability as espoused by the UN.
- There should be transparency, mutual respect.
- A strong relationship never needs a daily conversation
The third paper for the day was presented by Pastor Vincent Omegba and was titled: Volunteering, Prison Fellowship Nigeria Ministry Vis-À-Vis Prison Fellowship Ministries In The Diaspora.
In his presentation, he made the following points:
- You must have passion for it the lack of passion is why some of us are frustrated.
- For there to be people involved and for it to succeed, we must give a deep though to it.
- To effectively get people to be involved in Prison Ministry, we must think deeply about any programs.
- Voluntarism is what God puts in the heart of people.
- God is very interested in prisoners. Christ came to set the captives free. Do not do prison ministry out of emotions because those who do their best are the ones who do it as a calling.
- To get people involved, we must get personally involved. You have to have a skin in the game.
- Passion is not transferable and it is what makes you to go forward.
The fourth paper, Identify And Explore Core Areas In Prison Ministry To Enhance Volunteers Effectiveness, was also presented by Pastor Omegba
Pastor Omegba made the following points:
- There is a lack of interest on the part of church leadership to encourage prison ministry.
- America has realised that putting people in prison is not the best option but reformative and rehabilitative
How do you change a system?
- Accept that the fact that things are not working the way we expect them to work. We should apply wisdom where necessary rather than resort to prayers only. We should not bury our heads in the sand. In many cases, it is a fixed mind-set.
What do we need to change in PF now for us to move forward?
- Look for key leaders in our team.
For any change to happen, there are critical milestones:
- Be innovative without being rebellious. God is more interested in building people than in building cathedrals. There is never a right time to do a difficult thing.
- Do not put guilt in the mind of your people.
- An old dog can learn new tricks- he is learning Maths, and Law of NGO’s
You must know the philosophical basis of prison ministry. – Philosophy is the fundamental study of reality, knowledge and existence.
Know the sociological basis. If there is a prison ministry in Agenebode, you must understand the culture of the people even in doing prison ministry because people are more psychological than spiritual. If you know the psychology before the spiritual, it helps a great deal
The theological basis
- They are inside our books.
The economic basis of prison ministry
- The U.S. noted that the prisons are a real estate business. Government is spending so much on prisoners.
The fifth and final paper for the day was presented by Pastor (Dr.) Dele Babade, Title Let Your Light So Shine Before Men
In his presentation, he made the following points:
- One of the principal problems of the church is that we preach 10 sermons but difficult to live even 1 of the sermons.
- Many church members forget that the sharpest brain is fainter than the bluntest ink.
- It is one thing to say and another to act. We have integrity questions.
- Is your light shining? There are different kinds of fire.: Fire to boil water. Fire to light a matchstick, etc.
- For our light to shine, we need to examine those who have passed this route before and they include, David, Joseph, Elijah/Elisha, Esther to mention a few.
- If we consider David, the oil of God was already inside the horn.
- The man God will use may not be relevant in the earthly system. He may appear of no consequence. Do not let me be retired before my time.
- Samuel upon sighting David, the oil stayed. The oil of my assignment will not go to the wrong person.
- Those who cover the glory of men will not cover mine
- Those looking for your downfall will be celebrating your victory
- A christian life without challenge is not the christian life.
- God was with Joseph. Is God with you?
- Get to a level with God where we will say all of You and none of me.
- How did David manage the men in the Cave of Adullam? By having time for them.
- Can you deny yourself like Joseph did?
- Depend absolutely on God Dan 6:1-5. The three Hebrew men also depended upon God.
- We are the Bible that people are reading. They hardly need the Bible.
- How well do we treat the gateman, house help etc.
- Matthew 5:48- Have you given your all.
To round-off activities for the first day, the Board Chairperson Mrs. Din led the meeting in prayers after which she presented the 2018 calendar to Dr. Babade.
The annual family weekend of the fellowship kicked-off after the paper presentations were concluded. State chapters were asked to present report of activities for the last one year. State chapter in attendance either presented reports or submitted already written reports. Notable summaries from some of the state chapter reports are as follows:
Adamawa: Out of 17 prison formations in the state, four are still locked up because of the insurgency.
Kwara: There are four prisons in Ilorin one of them, Oke-Kura prisons is conducting educational programs for inmates.
Lagos: South West retreat of volunteers was hosted by Lagos. Lagos also reports that the Onesimus project is making huge impact in the lives inmates.
Nasarawa: In its report mentioned that the Officer- In-charge wants to deal directly with churches. They therefore are planning to visit the State Controller on the matter. Nasarawa also noted that the Keffi –old prison worship centre is too small.
Niger: The state reports that there is a challenge of chairmanship of the chapter which has affected the speedy growth of reaching out to other prisons in Niger State. Asks if National Secretariat for permission to have elections conducted to elect other officials.
Osun: Stated that they are overdue for elections and would want the national office to come conducts another election for them.
Oyo: Chapter recorded appreciable progress. Great co-operation with the judiciary which led to facilitation of bail for some inmates.
Taraba: Bacha prison is slated for training on beads making.
Immediately after the state chapters had presented their reports, the house observed a minute of silence in honour of officers and volunteers who passed on in the course of the year across nation.
The Executive Director canvasses the need to build a worthy national ministry, noting that, sacrifices must be made in the pursuit of something meaningful. These requirements are essential statutorily and spiritually. Adding also, that there is need for us to mutually edify one another.
The meeting then picked Kaduna picked as next host of the AGM in 2018.
One of the highlights of the meeting was the introduction of a prison fellowship anthem written by a volunteer from Abuja which drew commendation from the Board Chair.
To bring the family meeting to a close, Mr. Bulus Ayuba from Adamawa moved the motion for adjournment and it was seconded by Mr. Ucheibe from Kano.
Thereafter the closing prayers were taken.
DAY TWO: MORNING SESSION
Proceeding for the second day commenced at about 7:15 am with prayers led by the secretary general after which the Executive Director, Barr. Benson Iwuagwu presented a paper titled Strengthening the Operational Structure of PF Nigeria
The Executive Director made the following points in his presentation:
- The reason you reinforce is that you want to strengthen and make something better.
- Christians are not the only people who do good things, the difference is that we do it in the name of Jesus.
- You cannot strengthen what you don’t know or what you have no knowledge of.
- Our number one objective is the win and build the inmates in prison.
- We need to understand the objectives of the prison fellowship of Nigeria so that state by state we are doing the same thing.
- An organization is sensitive to its environment and it responds to threats and opportunities.
- We need to design our programmes to carter to the needs of the total man- spirit, soul and body.
- If you are a prison minister and you are not adding value to the evangelistic drive of your local church you are not fruitful.
- We also need to design our programmes to carter for all the victims of crime.
- State chairmen need to align their programmes to the strategic objectives of the national ministry.
- We must demand that the state excos file in quarterly report of meetings.
After the presentation there was a testimony from a Muslim ex-inmate who shared his experience in his time at the Kirikiri prison who had the mind of seeking revenge upon his release but after meeting with Bro. ND Oleka who mentored him while he was in prison, he changed his mind and his life is now changed and he is convinced that love concurs all things.
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
The AGM started at about 10:50 am with introductions of dignitaries at the event. Engineer Yinka Oyewole introduced the members of the high table.
Chairman’s opening remarks
In the chairman’s opening remarks, he expresses delight to be at the AGM and refers to the Aminu Mohammed testimony as an indicator of what is being achieved by the prison fellowship. Even with these achievements we must understand that everyone will still give account of his time here on earth. He also urges volunteers to keep the flag flying and not to relent in our efforts at saving the inmates.
Board Chair Address
Appreciates everyone who took time to come to Abuja for the AGM especially in the light of the economic difficulties. She encouraged the meeting from the book of Psalm 18: 1-2. She would want us to personalise these verses in the work that we do. If we continue to trust God we will do exploits in the prisons.
Similarly, the Board Chairperson appreciates PFI for the programmes that they bring to Nigeria and thanked the state chapters that are working and wants them to do more.
The Board chairpersons address was followed by a paper presented by the chairman of the occasion then presented his paper titled, Injustice In The Delay Of Criminal Trial In Nigeria
In is presentation the chairman made the following points:
- Urges government to take up the issues of prison reforms more seriously.
- He would want delays in the justice system starting with the police to the courts to be looked at.
- 256 out of about 776 inmates are awaiting trial in Kuje prison which is a concern that should also be addressed.
- Delays in criminal trials also come up from the prosecuting offices. E.g Police and then the DPP and that is why we have more ATM’s than CM’s.
- Courts also contribute to delays in the ATM’s.
Goodwill message was delivered by Air Commodore Dan Suleiman, Former Governor of Plataea State
In his remarks, he said he was once a prisoner for three days as a NADECO activist. He decries the state of Nigerian prisons and encourages the Prison fellowship to continue to do more in the good work that is being done.
The Minister of interior
The Minister of Interior was represented by Controller of Prisons Daniel Okaro and in his remarks, encourages PF to continue its work in the Prisons. The case of Aminu Yusuf is a case in to buttress his point, he noted.
The Executive Director used the opportunity to Showcases PF Nigeria
In showcasing PF Nigeria, the Executive Director made the following points:
- PF Nigeria is a faith-based organisation that draws membership from across all strands of the Christian Faith.
- Vision is to be a community of reconciliation for the victim and offender and the community or relatives.
- Jesus Christ is our only dogma in the PFN.
- Our programmes are not only about preaching salvation but it is about discipleship, etc.
- We have programs like STP, TPJ, Onesimus etc.
- The Lagos State Restorative Justice Centre will open in 2018. RJ will offer a pre-trial diversionary mediation
- Love is our biggest weapon
The showcase of PF Nigeria was followed by the launch of the PF Nigeria calendar for 2018 by the Board Chairperson. Dignitaries, state chairmen and individuals were also invited to launch the calendar This was followed by the presentation of awards to distinguished individuals who have served the fellowship meritoriously. The presentation of awards was followed by a session of praise celebration.
AGM BUSINESS MEETING
The meeting started at about 2:25pm with minutes of the AGM in Uyo read by the Secretary General. This was immediately followed by the Executive Directors report. The Audited statement of account and the Budget presentation for 2018 were also presented by the Financial Secretary who apologised to States that the hard copies of the report would not be given to respective states as they could not be printed but that the reports would be forwarded to their emails.
Following corrections made to the respective reports and munities and the adoptions, the following resolutions were reached after lengthy discussions.
The budget and minutes should be sent to states before the AGM that members can follow.
Going forward to truly have a national account covering both State and National accounts, states have to participate in the accounting process. States must submit their statements of accounts before the end of July every year.
The accounting year July 1 to June 30 was adopted as the financial accounting year for the fellowship.
State are mandated to have a functional state secretariat.
The motion was adopted for the replacement of board members who have not been adding value to the ministry in order to have a viable Board of Trustees
The Executive Director’s motion for the setting up of disciplinary committee and a Finance and Property Committee which is essential for the ministry were also adopted.
Deacon Elijah Ogunsanya was elected in a bye election as Deputy Executive Director to replace Late Dr. Ufot Ekere.
In her final remarks to close the AGM, the Board Chair was thankful to the Abuja chapter for a job well-done. The AGM came to a close at 1703 hours after motions for adjournments had be taken and closing prayers were offered.