More Troubles For Bode George: Inmate Olabode George Lives Large in Prison

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chief Olabode George and his wife
Enjoys only 2 hrs electricity in prison
•Bail application to wait till Nov 9

By Chioma Igbokwe and Dennis Ugbudian

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It is not the best of time for former Deputy National Chairman (South) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, who was jailed on Monday for alleged fraud while he was chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

Saturday Sun gathered that the politicians is not having it easy in his current abode, inside the Kirikiri Maximum prison, Kirikiri, Lagos, even though he is in a special cell.

Sources in the prison revealed that George is suffering owing to heat occasioned by erratic power supply. It was learnt when there is cut in electricity supply, which is frequent, the power generator in the prison is put on at 4am and switched off at 6am. Under such condition, the jailed politicians can not sleep.

Saturday Sun gathered that respite only comes the way of George when his political associates visithim during the day. Such associates are said to offer him their handkerchiefs to mop up sweat as well as fan him with newspapers.

It was also gathered that George has opted to wear his personal clothes instead of prison uniform. Our source revealed that after wearing the dress he wore to court on Monday for another two days, George has been changing into new ones since Wednesday.
A source at Kirikiri Prison said that George has the option of wearing his personal clothes if he does not want prison uniform. “

Apart from rejecting the prison uniform, Saturday Sun also gathered that George has shunned the food served in prison. It was gathered that his wife daily brings him food twice.
Meanwhile, political associates of George converge on his cell daily, where he holds meeting with them. So far, there is no restriction to his cell, especially as the visitors usually tip prison warders.
Speaking on how George is coping in prison, one of his associates and a former gubernatorial aspirant in Lagos, said that the politician was strong.

He confirmed that the PDP chieftain is being given a royal treatment in prison. According to him, “he is well dressed and no one can change that. How on earth do you expect him to wear a dress meant for criminals? We are already in court and in no distant time, he will smell freedom.”

On why George is not eating the prison meal, even if it is to have a feel of it, he said: “God forbid! I do visit him every other day and on two occasions I was there when his wife brought in his food.”
He said that George is not bothered about his predicament, as he always told his visitors not to worry about him. He revealed that George told his visitors that there is no big deal being in Kirikiri, as prison has become “an institution every politician must pass though to come out strong and formidable.”

The former guber aspirant said that while George assures them that he would regain freedom soon, following his appeal, he urged PDP faithful to be “strong and focused as this is a ploy by their number one enemy (Bola Tinubu) to destabilize the party.”

On why they are manipulation Tinubu in the matter, he said: “Take a close look at the cases handled by the same judge, and then you will understand what I am talking about.”
Saturday Sun gathered that George never believed he would end up in prison on Monday. It was gathered that while he was coming to court he had lined up other activities.
One of the aides said: “Before we went to court, we had agreed that after the court’s ruling, we would proceed to the island for a meeting on the way forward for PDP in Lagos.”

PRO spoke
When contacted, the Nigerian Prisons Service public relations officer, Mr. Ope Fatinikun, said that imprisonment does not mean punishment. He said that it was rather a way to reposition convicts back to normal life.

“That process is applicable to all other prisoners as long as the court that convicted him said that he should be remanded in the prisons,” he said.

Asked why some people get VIP treatment in prison, especially the elite in the society, Ope said: “We do not give VIP treatment in the prison; what we have is known as classification of convicts. There is no way you would place armed robbers with a pickpocket. When the like of the late Moshood Abiola was in prison, there was no way I could have placed him with a pickpocket. Classification is the only process given to protect everybody. We are there to protect the high and the mighty.”

On why Bode George was still wearing his personal clothes instead of the prison uniform, Ope said: “Prison uniform is meant for everybody under the Nigerian Prison Service. The way it works is that within 24 hours, the inmate is expected to appear before the reception board that laid down the rules and regulation guiding the prison. It must be done after 24 hours.”

When told that George has a bag of personal clothes in his cell, he described such rumour as scandalous, stating that if there was such it must be from NGOs, churches or humanitarian organizations that visit the prisons on a daily basis.

Prison warders’ lamentation
Meanwhile, some of the prison warders, who spoke with Saturday Sun, said that preferential treatment would continue in the prisons, as they benefit from it. He said that since government does not take good care of them, prison officers survive on tip they get from VIPs in jail.

A warder said: “The government protects the interest of the inmates more than those who cater for them. If there is fraud in the prisons, then that is because we are being neglected and paid stipend at the end of the day. We only learnt in the papers that the Federal Government has consolidated our salaries and till date we are yet to see the money. Government approved that for every shift duty, warders should be paid N4000, but you will be surprised that they give us N1, 000. Those at the helm of affairs spend the money and tell us stories.

“We have families to cater for. We have to make use of every opportunity at hand to survive; that is why the like of Bode George would continue to have their way.”

The surge of visitors for George
In the past five days, visitors start lining up for George as early as 8am. The makeshift reception opposite the prison yard is always busting to its seams with visitors, both the rich and the poor. The number of the state-of-the-art vehicles packed in virtually every available space indicates the calibre of visitors.
Saturday Sun gathered that many of the sympathizers come from far and near. Many, however, are from Ogun and Oyo states. Some of the visitors come with food and drinks for George. Some of these end up with the warders.

To see Bode George was not only competitive but a struggle, as visitors queue up to write their names under the watchful eyes of the prisons officers. A man in his mid-40s had a shouting match with the prison officers on Thursday for asking him to wait for a while before putting down his name.
“What does he think he is, by the way? He has been telling me to wait and wait, and I have been waiting. For how long shall I wait? He shouldn’t keep me here all day because I won’t take it,” he fumed.
The prison officer, known as Alika, replied and said that the man cannot teach him how to do his job. Eventually, the warders arranged that five persons should go in at a time to see George. It was this arrangement that put paid to every trouble.

The waiting game was another episode as it generated all manner of discussions among the visitors. A young man simply called Yemi and his friends said that George was framed up, adding that he was not supposed to be convicted for what he knew nothing about. They swore that Tinubu and some Action Congress (AC) stalwarts had a hand in his trial.

Hear Yemi: “Chief Bode George, to me, did not embezzle the money they convicted him for. I am very sure that Tinubu and Co have a hand in this. Anyway, it is one of those things. I am sure that by the time this problem is over, it will even make the PDP more popular and stronger.”
Some journalists, who disguised to get some information on George’s prison experience were unfortunate as they were discovered and chased away.

George way to prison
George, a retired Naval Commodore, was found guilty of 46 out of the 48 charges, over his activities as chairman of the NPA board. Justice Olubunmi Oyewole said that George and others were guilty as charged over N1billion contract scam as NPA board members.

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