When people talk about prisons in Nigeria, they are always referred to as a place where hardened criminals are trained. 

But two ex-inmates of Kirikiri Prison, Lagos, James Etuk and Olawale Dada, are saying a different thing today. 

Their story will leave you with nothing more than a conclusion that every individual in life chooses what to do with his or her life even in a prison.

They had acquired carpentry skills during their incarceration and that singular skill resulted in their becoming joint-owners of a furniture company.

The duo, who spoke on vocational skill acquisition for youths, said that prisons across the country should be rehabilitated to meet contemporary demands.

The new joint-owners of Alpha Furniture Works Limited told the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos that their combined seven-year sojourn at Kirikiri prison was not a wasted time.

Etuk, who was imprisoned for petty stealing and shoplifting in 1987 and spent four years at Kirikiri Prison, said the facility at that time was far better than now.

He also lamented the recurrence of jailbreaks in Nigeria, blaming the administrators of facilities for their nonchalance and inhumane disposition.

“Then, while in prison, our mindset was daily focused on what we could engage ourselves in after leaving the yard that will enable us re-integrate well into the society.

“Because of the good handling of the place by the administrators, the thought of jailbreak was not in any inmate’s mind.

“I improved on the carpentry skills I acquired thereby observation and reading through furniture works albums to meet up with the current trend,” Etuk said.

According to the furniture merchant who has two apprentices alongside his co-owner, the business is challenging but rewarding.

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Dada, the co-owner of the furniture company, on his part said: “I spent three years in prison. I was in the same cell with Etuk and we were pardoned at the same time.

“So we began to practise what we were taught in the prison at construction sites at Festac.”

Dada said that it was after working at various sites for two years that they were able to pool their resources together and rented a shop at Aboju market in Lagos where they made furniture for supply to sellers at Alaba International Market.

He said that many Nigerian youths could be gainfully employed in the informal sector if skills acquisition was prioritised.

Dada appealed to governments at all levels to improve the welfare of prison inmates while promoting skills acquisition.

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