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Opinions of Friday, 14 May 2021

Columnist: Isaac Poku

When the fire came home

The Ejura Camp Prison donated by the Church of Pentecost to the Ghana Prisons Service The Ejura Camp Prison donated by the Church of Pentecost to the Ghana Prisons Service

One hot Saturday afternoon, somewhere in 2002, my friends and I were playing soccer on a dusty pitch located between Kwashieman and Awoshie.

After some time, we saw a cloud of heavy smoke at Awoshie. Due to fear for our lives, we ended the game and run to our various homes. Little did I know that this fire would follow me home.

When I reached our residence, which was located adjacent the Kwashieman government school, I told my mum what we saw. We quickly turned on our TV and we saw the news of a burning high tension at Baah yard-Awoshie.

The Fire Service managed to quench the fire after it had caused some significant damages. Thus, we forgot about it; however, when evening came, the fire arrived.

I felt the heat of the fire when my father returned from my cousin’s wedding ceremony at Breman Asikuma, my hometown. When my Dad returned, I saw him conversing with my mum. Together, they shed tears. That was the first and only time I saw my Dad cry.

I didn’t know why they cried but I joined them. I asked why they were crying and the response made the already quenched fire hotter.

My Dad was and continues to be a vulcanizer at Baah yard. After work, he used to gather his damaged tyres around the high tension, which were bought by some officers from VALCO.

This aluminum company burnt the used tyres and extracted the metal rings for their work.

However, it got to a time when they didn’t show up for a while. This led to an accumulation of tyres under the high tension.

It was these tyres under the high tension that caught fire and burnt the high tension. One man who also worked in the yard went to the police station and reported to them that my father intentionally set fire into the tires and run away.

The police immediately pronounced my Dad wanted.

Fortunately for my Dad, my Cousin’s wedding was filmed, which proved my Dad’s absence, contrary to what the man reported. Even so, the dead fire caused some blisters.

My family went to church (Odorkor Church of Christ) the next day. When we closed, my father told the leadership about what had happened. They advised him to report himself at the police station.

He agreed and they led him there. My Dad was immediately put behind bars and arraigned to court the following day.

Therefore, my Dad appeared in court on Monday. The church gave my Dad a great lawyer, the late lawyer Danso Acheampong. At the court, my Dad was accused of causing woeful damage to the State.

The judge remanded him and ruled that he re-appear in court in two weeks. Herein, my Dad was sent to James Forte Prison.

These 2 weeks in my family’s life was fiery. If a couple of days in prison could make someone turn into an evangelist, you can only imagine what we went through. I used to go to the Kwashieman government school and cry for several hours.

After wiping my face, I go home only to meet my teary mum and siblings. “Will Daddy come back?”

We kept asking our Mum. My mum assured us that he’ll come back amidst tears. In the midst of all these, we were comforted by the church’s enormous support.

While in prison, my Dad received food daily from the church and family. He never ate the ‘water food’ served there. Just before writing this, I called him to recount some of his experience there. He said the prison had 99 laws given to the inmates.

A breach of any one of them corresponds to a punishment, which ranged from carrying a bucket of toilet to the lengthening of one’s allocated time.

They had a toilet facility outside their room, but they were locked to sleep at 4 pm. Hence, anybody who wanted to ease himself had to do it in a bucket placed in the room.

Those who disobeyed any of the 99 rules were made to empty the bucket and wash it the next morning.

Aside from the poor food and sanitation, the inmates are packed like canned fish to sleep, as broadcasted by the “Crime Check

Foundation.” Thanks to Mr. Ibrahim Oppong Kwarteng.

The doleful part of this is that there are some inmates like my Dad who have been falsely accused. Moreover, many are those who have been remanded for a number of years without being tried.

They wait endlessly to be sent to court just to know their actual fate. Among them was one man my father met there who had been on remand for 12 years.

This family outcast didn’t know why he hadn’t been arraigned to court and he was not even sure whether his prosecutor was alive or not.

This man, upon meeting my Dad, said he knew God sent my Dad to prison because of him. Interestingly this happened to be true.

From this and other accounts, we see that there are many innocent people in prison. These people deserve to live humane lives.

Even for those who have been acquitted, don’t they deserve to live like humans too? Is prison not supposed to be reformative instead of retributive?

Some of us walking outside the prison walls have even committed worse offenses than the prisoners. We are free because we’ve not been caught.

And these same people are condemning the church of Pentecost for building prison facilities to decongest the place and give meaningful lives to the inmates.

These netizens argue that the church could have built Hospitals and businesses. Don’t we have Pentecost and other missionary hospitals? I don't blame them. “Etua wo yonko a, etua duam.”

To wit: You may be unconcerned because you’re not the one experiencing it.

Just like coronavirus affected China and most countries were unconcerned initially, you may never know that you may be the next freshest prison inmate. If you are in doubt, ask Akuapem Polo.

Unfortunately, some Christians are joining these blind critics. What about what our Lord said in his judgement parable pronouncements?

Among other godly acts, those saved were recommended for visiting those in prison (Matt. 25:36). Inherently, their visit was accompanied by charitable deeds (James 2:16, 17).

On this note, I ask for God’s immeasurable blessings for the leaders and members of the Pentecost church for this Christ-like act.

Back to my Dad’s prison life. The day for the next sitting came. His charge was amended with “putting inflammable substance under a high tension” and setting fire into it.

My Dad’s lawyer argued that a tyre is non-flammable. Also, my cousin’s wedding video showed that my Dad was not around to have set fire into the tires.

Moreover, why would he intentionally set fire into tires he sold to VALCO? From these and other submissions, my Dad was acquitted and discharged.

After he was discharged, he immediately went to see the family of the man who had been remanded for 12 years.

Together with the family, they managed to follow the case and sent it to court. Therein the man was released a month after my Dad was freed.

I have come to know that there are many innocent people in prison. It could be me or you in there tomorrow. I have also come to understand that prison is for correction and everyone deserves another chance.

If so, prisoners deserve a humane life. Hence, the prison facilities built by the Pentecost church is not a misplaced priority. God bless them for their gracious act of love.

Enjoy the Grace of God!


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