My Exodus to Ejura Nkwanta.
It was in August 2018 and I was on a Night shift when my SCO Administration marched myself, L/cpl Forster Gyimah and ACO Eric Tei Otoo one morning to the then Second In Command, now ADP Patrick Thomas Seidu; who read to us the official signal from the DOP OPS/Agric selecting us to go join other selected officers from Kumasi Central Prison and the Amanfrom Settlement Camp Prison at Ejura Nkwanta, a 20 minutes drive away from the Ejura Sekyeredumase municipal capital to start a fresh prison facility.
Did I feel anxious or some mixed feelings? Yes and no; because I was barely 12 months in active service after Passing Out; and didn’t know what experience I was bringing on board.
Scary stories of armed robbery attacks on the Kumasi-Ejura-Atebubu highway kept flashing through my mind. The fear of going to start a prison facility with little experience as a prison officer wouldn’t leave my mind.
My mum was confused and sad but what could she do; than to pray and motivate me not to relent and see it as an opportunity in disguise.
I eventually arrived at the yet to be established prison facility on the 3rd Sepenmber,2018 and reported to the acting Chief Officer Administration, Stephen Aforkpka, who was our senior most Non-Commissioned officer. After doing my entries, Sgt. Stephen Torgbor served me with porridge and bread which he called ‘akwaaba akasa’
I got a little bit relieved off anxiety when I saw my course mate, George Danso Aboagye who later showed me the waaakye joint in town the next morning before we left for farm. GHc 2.00 worth of waakye was like that of Hajia’s GHc5.00 in Obuasi.
That evening, the big man, whom I later got to know as DSP Dickson Owusu Ameyaw showed up, we all had dinner together and after taking our shower, he summoned us for mini-durbar where he read to us official signals from HQ spelling out what exactly our roles Will be, before and as at when we receive inmates.
After that night, I got to know officially that, 11 officers were to help the In-charge, DSP D.O. Ameyaw run the facility. The eleven (11) junior officers included Chief Officer Stephen Aforkpa, Assistant Chief Officer Eric Tei Otoo, Sgt Stephen Torgbor, Cpl Yaw Kyeremeh, Cpl Alphonsus Amoako and Cpl Godwin Ablordey. Others were L/Cpl Daniel Gyeyir, L/Cpl Forster Gyimah, L/Cpl Daniel Danso, 2CO George Aboagye Danso and 2CO Emmanuel B.Agyemfra.
Due to its core mandate as an Agric facility, a tractor operator Assistant Chief Officer Richard Kpodo and a driver Cpl Nurudeen Mumuni were added to facilitate our movements.
At this point, we were yet to receive our first batch of inmates so we practically did everything ourselves from planting of maize, spraying of weedicides and scaring of birds to providing security on the land.
Getting portable water for domestic use was a headache because the village had issues with getting portable water; unless for some days where they could access a borehole far from town and a well around the Fulani area.
Our able In-charge liaised with his colleague at the Ejura Fire Command where we could go pick water for our installation.
Due to our number, work was tedious and stressful but the thought of us being there to help birth a new facility alone gave us more energy.
Before we received inmates into our temporary facility, which was close to the highway and adjacent to the only basic school in town, we had done all the planting on an over 150 acre land with our 14 staff strength with DSP Ameyaw not excusing himself ever.
Aside our core duties at the infant facility, we also did support the Police in MUSEC matters whenever the need be and via this, we created a mutual relationship with the town folks; some of them who were seeing prison officers for the first time.
First 30 Inmates Received
The day we received the first batch of inmates to the facility from the Kumasi Central Prison, Mrs. Ameyaw, had visited days before and treated us to a sumptuous rice ball with grilled ‘kotodwe’, adwene, salmon, ginger and pepperish groundnut soup.
Madam was one woman who didn’t only come to visit her husband but to give us encouragement and sometimes joined us to the farm to either plant or scare away birds.
Now, we had to divide ourselves to be able to run Early, Afternoon and Night Shifts. It was a “difficult something to do” considering the security and nature of the temporary facility but the facility in charge took the bull by its horns and created the allocation so to ease pressure on the few officers available.
Cpl Yaw Kyeremeh became our first ever Chief Admin Clerk, Sgt Torgbor our Store Keeper, ACO Tei Otoo as the Yard Master, myself as the Reception Officer coupled with other administrative duties.
Our duties could run from 6am to 6pm whenever one of us was incapacitated but we sailed through to prevent security lapses.
Before we got to rent places of our own, we lodged in three vacant rooms in the facility; some with items and inmates in the big hall. We were just a knock away from each other but we understood the process.
We started escorting inmates to the farm to apply fertilizer, spray anti-army worms and keep the farm against rodents. The inmates, with the motivation from DSP Ameyaw and other senior colleagues worked their heart out.
Were they giving us issues? Hehehe definitely inmates wouldn’t give a prison warden 100% peace of mind but we were able to manage them accordingly.
We did our best to assimilate into the host community by all means possible. Others received us but there were those who thought we had only come to take their lands and by that notion, we were not welcomed.
The Odikro of Ejura Nkwanta never turned his back on us, same as the Kontihene of Ejura, who was the next in command to the Paramount Chief of Ejura, Barima Osei Hwedea II.
DSP Ameyaw made us rent places close to the facility in towns as Hiawoanwu, Kasei, Bonyon and Nkwanta respectively to deepen beneficial mutual relations with the indigenes who are mostly farmers.
The Midas touch by the COP and its Commissioning
One Sunday, we had a delegation from the Ejura Pentecost church that came to donate to us edibles and a Flat screen television with satellite dish for the inmates use in their dormitory cell; something they’ve been hoping and praying for.
They never told us about the beautiful plan of their National Chairman and his executives to help the Ghana Prisons Service construct 5 settlement camp prison facilities to help us decongest.
Ejura was fortunate to be part of the five and God being so good, it has gotten to its peak and ready to be adored to the world.
Yesterday, the Director General of Prisons, Interior Minister and Chairman of the Church of Pentecost had a colorful ceremony in Ejura Nkwanta to officially outdoor the new facility fully sponsored by the church.
I am by this article saluting now Superintendent Dickson Owusu Ameyaw for his hard work and resilience in making sure the Ejura Settlement camp prison gets such a facelift and not forgetting the first 11 junior officers who sacrificed their all to start the facility until the staff strength increased.
May the good Lord keep blessing the Chairman and members of the Church of Pentecost for such a wonderful gesture which will enhance safe custody of inmates, their reformation and rehabilitation.