The Anambra State Government has procured a piece of land in Umunze, Orumba South Local Government Area of the state for the construction of a juvenile prison.
The institution, it was gathered, would serve as a correctional home for young persons in conflict with the law.
This is coming barely a week after the National Human Rights Commission raised the alarm that no fewer than 523 children were languishing in various (adult) prisons in the state.
Speaking during an inspection tour and handover of the property to the state government by the Umunze community, the Commissioner for Children and Women’s Affairs, Ndidi Mezue, expressed gratitude to the community for providing the land.
She also thanked Josephine Onah of the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption of the European Union for initiating the process of securing the site.
Assuring government’s partnership with RoLAC in developing the project, Mezue assured that her ministry would soon clear the site to begin perimeter fencing of the facility.
She said she would involve other ministries that would have roles to play in the development of the physical structure at the centre as well as set up a committee that would plan the development of the facility and forward reports to Governor Willie Obiano for implementation.
According to Mezue, the correctional facility would provide a proper place for rehabilitating minors who were often picked up on the streets or found guilty of a crime by courts in the state.
“Before now, we have been having issues with where to keep young ones, who had been found guilty of crimes or picked on the streets.
“We used to put them in our orphanage at Awka, but it is not enough. So, we really appreciate the people of Umunze for donating this place and we will make the best of it,” Mezue said.
The State Programme Coordinator of RoLAC, Josephine Onah, said the initiative was part of the European Union’s programmes for rights of children, women and the disabled.
She said it was during an interactive session with Presidents-General of the communities in Anambra State that she sensitised them on the need to provide land for building a correctional centre to take care of cases of those in conflict with the law (children offenders below 18 years of age).
Onah added, “We brought our consultant who, after studying the land, came up with a recommendation that the place was suitable for the centre.”
RoLAC Consultant, Dr Ifediora Orakwe, on his part, said the centre would be a school and skill acquisition centre for minors, who might have committed crime as a result of peer group influence and could be easily rehabilitated to become functional members of the society.
Speaking, the President General of the community, John Akanyeonu, said the community resolved to donate the piece of land as part of its contribution towards the development strides of the Willie Obiano administration.