On the day she turned 73 former governor of Anambra State Dame Virgy Etiaba was with people behind bars, moving from Awka, the state capital, to Ekwulobia and Nnewi.
Since her days as deputy governor and governor, prison philanthropy has been a ritual.
Marking this year’s anniversary, Etiaba provided many items to the physically challenged at Ozubulu in Ekwusigo Local Government Area. This was in addition to her gesture to the people behind bars.
The items she gave to the inmates included 27 tins of vegetable oils, 17 tablets of medicated soap, 30 cartons of noodles, 78 bags of rice and 500 loaves of bread, among others.
Etiaba, who left office as governor in 2010 christened her visit to the prisons “River in the Desert.”
The inmates drummed and sang worship songs with special prayers.
Two Assistant Controllers of prisons in Awka and Ekwulobia, Ejenam Chinedu and Paschal Ibegbunam said the prisons were faced with various challenges.
These, according to them, included lack of water, petrol to power the generating sets, adding that the items also received from charitable organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and churches were not enough for the inmates.
However, for Ejenam Chinedu, the workers in the prison are free prisoners, adding that they were in the same environment with the inmates.
He said the prisons suppose to accommodate 414 inmates with 13 cells with each cell containing over 30 inmates, adding that some individuals, NGOs and churches especially Anglican and catholic, had started refurbishing the cells for the inmates.
He said, “When they live in a conducive environment, their thinking and behaviour might change. Some other people had been coming to visit the prisons; the government has not bettered the lot of the people because of the economic crunch in the society.
“Some are here not because they committed any offence, some are awaiting trial, whenever they are visited, they feel elated especially, the awaiting trial inmates, we have a river of gratitude to you Mama Anambra in the society.”
Dame Virgy Etiaba, first former female governor in the country, and mother of Emeka Etiaba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said,
“Instead of spending my 73rd birthday with the rich, I decided to come to you because you are all my children.”