Towards Better Life for Prison Inmates- Rauf Aregbesola
(Being a Keynote Address at the Commissioning of Operational Vehicles at Nigerian Correctional Centre Hq, Abuja)
It is on record that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, since 2015 has ushered an unprecedented development into the country and this has had a buckwash effect not just on the Ministry of Interior, but the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) in particular.
The progressive changes evident at the NCoS are as a result of deliberate efforts of the Administration to address the neglect of the past, with improved budgetary provisions, infrastructure upgrade, improved logistics and staff and inmates’ welfare, among others.
The Service was noticeably challenged in the area of logistics which affected its capacity to deliver on its statutory responsibility of conveying inmates to courts as and when due. This problem no doubt impacted negatively on the inmates’ access to justice as well as the administration of criminal justice in the country.
Accordingly, in line with Mr. President’s commitment to good governance and providing credible leadership for all Nigerian citizens, including those behind bars, the Administration wasted no time in taking steps to redeem the situation. Hence, the resolve to release funds for the procurement of vehicles on an annual basis since 2015 with a view to bridging the missing gap.
Yes, the logistics challenge may not have been fully addressed; nevertheless, a lot of progress has been made in that respect. The provision of the vehicles being commissioned is in continuation of the overall steps taken toward the facilitation of inmates’ access to justice and general wellbeing.
One of the challenges being faced by the Service is accommodation for inmates. This however is being addressed with the ongoing constructing of three units of 3,000-cell high capacity Custodial Centres each in three Geo-Political Zones in the country.
They are in Kano (North West), Karchi-Abuja (North Central) and Bori Rivers State (South-South).
We have also embarked on extensive renovation and rehabilitation of cells, barracks and other physical structures across the country as the 32 Satellite Custodial Centres previously shut down due to insurgency have been re-opened and rehabilitated while 14 new Satellite Custodial Centres and barracks have been constructed.
To ensure the wellbeing of the inmates, we have recruited more medical and paramedical personnel into the Service and procured adequate quantities of drugs and medicaments.
The NCoS has contributed to agriculture and food production in the country. We reactivated Custodial Farm Centres for large scale agricultural production in piggery, fishing, cattle rearing and poultry in different parts of the country.
Three Custodial Farm Centres have been selected for large scale farming based on comparative advantage. They are Kujama Farm in Kaduna State for maize; Lakushi Farm in Plateau State for rice and Ozalla Farm in Edo State for palm oil. We have also procured 25 new tractors, combined harvesters and relevant implements to enhance agricultural productivity in custodial farm centres.
To fulfil our creed as a correctional service, we embarked on and are succeeding in the reformation of inmates. Towards this, we created and equipped vocational workshops for the following trades: welding, weaving, masonry, furniture, farming, tailoring, barbing, and bakery in Custodial Centres. We have started Graduate Degree programmes in the Nigerian Correctional Service (currently, about 649 inmates are running various degree and postgraduate degree programmes in the facilities.
About 1,000 inmates have also been enrolled for the WAEC/NECO Examinations. There are adult literacy classes in the several Custodial Centres while we put in place additional training institutions for young offenders (male and female) in each State of the Federation.
We have also begun the implementation of Correctional Service rehabilitation plan and collaboration with relevant agencies to decongest the Nigerian Custodial Centres. When we started the programme two months ago, over 2,600 inmates were released from custody. This number has since increased to 3,955 as the process is on-going and progressively, more inmates will exit our Custodial Centres.
May I therefore charge the officers of the Service to judiciously use and maintain the vehicles for optimum performance, particularly in light of the prevailing economic challenges facing the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I wish to however assure you all that the Federal Government shall continue to take steps to improve the conditions of the inmates in the custodial centres in line with global best practices. I wish to also appeal to other tiers of government and public-spirited individuals and organisations to continue to render needed supports to the NCoS in the interest of national security.
I will like to thank President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR for his understanding and support of our efforts towards the transformation of the NCoS. My special thanks go to the distinguished members of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate Committee on Interior and the House Committee on Reformatory Institutions for their pivotal roles in facilitating the implementation of government’s programmes and policies.
Finally, I wish to sincerely commend the officers and the management team of the Nigerian Correctional Service under the leadership of the Controller-General of Corrections, Ja’afaru Ahmed, for their dedication and commitment to duty, especially at this trying period of the fight against COVID-19 Pandemic. I am particularly pleased, and for which I commend the service exceedingly, that not a single case of the disease has been reported in any of our facilities.
Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola
Minister of Interior