Anambra State Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo has pledged support for the prison ministry of the Archbishop of Onitsha, His Grace, Most Rev. Valerian Maduka Okeke.
Soludo made the pledge during a birthday mass for the Archbishop, who marked his 70th birthday.
The mass celebrated at the Nigerian Correctional Service Medium Security Custodial Center, Onitsha was attended by former Governor, Peter Obi, Sen Chris Ngige and Speaker House of Assembly, Rt Hon somtochukwu Udeze.
Soludo, accompanied by his wife, Mrs Nonye, also laid the foundation stone for the secondary school to be built in the center and commissioned the skills acquisition center built and donated by the Archbishop Okeke.
The governor said he was impressed by the Okeke’s commitment to helping inmates at the correctional center, describing the Archbishop’s work as a reminder that everyone deserved a second chance.
He promised to pay NABTEB exam fees for 30 inmates who were preparing for the exams, just as he promised to install solar panels and inverters to supply electricity to the center, which has a population of 1,125 inmates.
“I am here today to celebrate the Archbishop of Onitsha for his commitment to helping those who are often forgotten,” Soludo said.
The Governor advised the inmates to take advantage of the skills acquisition program at the center to ensure they were productive members of society when they were released.
“I urge you to take the skills acquisition program seriously. When you are released from prison, you can use these skills to build a better life for yourself and your family.”
In a homily, the celebrant, Archbishop of Onitsha, His Grace, Most Rev. Valerian Maduka Okeke, described gratitude to God as greatest sacrifice to offer.
The Archbishop, who celebrated his birthday with inmates, has made many philanthropic gestures at the center, including rehabilitating a borehole that supplies water to all the cells, renovating the prison cells, and establishing a skill acquisition program where inmates can learn various skills.
The month-long birthday celebration of the Archbishop of Onitsha will also include visits to several hospitals in Onitsha, where he will pay the bills of patients who are unable to pay.
The Archbishop was awarded the Grand Patron of Inmates in Custody in Nigeria by the Controller General of Corrections, Nigerian Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa, represented by his Deputy, SN Nwakuche.