No one ever prays to go to prison; however, for the popular blogger, Kemi Olunloyo, 2017 is a year that she would likely not forget in a hurry as that was the year she was remanded in custody three times.
The blogger was sent to prison for alleged cyber-crime charges and defamation of character after accusing Pastor David Ibiyeomie of Salvation Ministries of adultery.
In an exclusive chat with Saturday Beats, she recounted her experience at Port Harcourt Maximum Prison. She told Saturday Beats that even though she was locked up with criminals, they all feared and respected her to the extent that she became a gangster in prison. She said, “I think the Port Harcourt prison is the biggest in Nigeria with 4,175 inmates – 75 women and 4,100 men – between the ages of 18 and 25. It is filled with young Nigerian men, but it is a disaster. The male inmates really worked for me and they gave me the nickname, Mummy K. I was really dealing with armed robbers without guns.
“In prison, they are nobody; they look frail with various skin diseases. They are really suffering at the male section and they ought to decongest the place. The place is filled with very dangerous people and when I was taken to the prison the second time, I saw Jay Jay, the guy who shot policemen during the Zenith Bank robbery (in Imo State) last year.
“I told him that the video went viral and that he was in serious trouble. He was the one that helped me carry my bag to the prison gate when I was leaving the first time I left the prison. At the prison, they mixed the ladies awaiting trial with those that had been convicted of their crimes. It is very rough in prison, but I was a gangster there.”
She described most inmates in Nigerian prisons as malnourished, adding that the food she and other inmates were served included ‘half-cooked’ beans every morning. She said, “People are dying of hunger in the prison; they gave us beans for breakfast, rice for lunch and garri for dinner. The beans meals were ‘half-cooked’ with sand, hair and other objects, so we had to wash our food, pick out the beans and cook it again.
“The garri smelt of urine because it was processed very close to where the male inmates urinated. I was in Cell 1, which was for the big girls and high profile cases, while Cell 2 was for the village girls, cult members, kidnappers, s*x workers, etc. Normally, we picked ladies from Cell 2 to be our helpers and they ran errands for us.
“The name of my helper was Chidinma, I am happy she is also out of the prison and she would work for me later. I would mentor her and she would later work as my personal assistant. Chidinma – the mother of two – bought a stolen phone for a cheap price on the street, but unknown to her; it belonged to a cult member that was beheaded. The police traced the phone to her and she was charged with murder. Luckily I was able to help her and she is a free woman now.”
Narrating an incident where she almost died in prison due to an asthma attack, she told Saturday Beats that but for donations from well-meaning Nigerians, the prison would have had no drugs.
Olunloyo said, “The prison has an infirmary and also a pharmacy; it is NGOs that provide drugs for the pharmacy. I had a massive asthma attack during my stay, but the prison did not have drugs for asthmatic patients, it was one of the prison workers that provided N1,500 that they used to buy inhaler for me. If not, I would have died there. It was after I protested that they began to stock the pharmacy with asthma drugs. The prison workers are trying but the government needs to upgrade the prison.”
Now that she is out of prison, she said that she incurred medical bills of about N7m, but had been able to raise N1.2m courtesy of Nigerians who love and sympathize with her.
“I contracted eye infections because of the dirty water that we bathed with. A two-time fraudster convicted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Chioma, attacked me and put her finger in my eyes, simply because I warned her to stop disposing her chewing gum and other dirt under my bunk whenever she came to visit her friend who was in my room.
“Since then, my eyes have not been the same. Also, when I visited the ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialists, they saw cotton wool stuck in my ears. My teeth were also damaged due to the food we were served. I have to undergo a root canal procedure. I slept on the floor for about a month because there was no bed space, the prison cells were crowded, so it was when someone was released that I got a bed space.
“Now I am experiencing serious waste pains because I had a back surgery in America in 2005. I also contracted toilet infections and Sexually Transmitted Infections from the toilet seats. Even though I put toilet paper on the toilet seats and poured disinfectant on the toilet seat, I still contracted diseases. I have boils at my pubic region. The toilet was very dirty. If I wanted to use the toilet, I would have to give Chidinma or any other girl I could find, about N1,000 so that they could help me wash the toilet very well before I could use it. But despite all that, I still contracted diseases.
“Because we were subjected to drinking untreated borehole water, I contracted typhoid three times. I am still treating typhoid. I am still very ill and you cannot come out of prison without detoxifying yourself. Already, my bill is running into about N7m but I have been able to raise about N1.2m.”
She continued: “I am sad because I see a lot of poverty and love because some people were sending me money as low as N1,000. Those that sent me above N100,000 were celebrities. I know that I am from a privileged background and I should not be soliciting funds publicly but I went to Nigerians because they are my fans and they love me. Because they seized my passport and my social media platforms were also affected, I could not work. I had less than N100,000 in my account by the end of 2017. I did not go to my dad, who is 82 years old, why must he support me? Besides, we have not talked to each other for about three years, but I have forgiven him. I did not go to my children living in America for money because I do not want to be a liability, however, they also gave me money,” she said.