How I Promoted 30,000 Stagnated Prison Officers-Ja’afaru Ahmed, Outgone CG NCoS
A valedictory speech at Pulling-Out Ceremony on January 21, 2021
I feel honoured and highly delighted to deliver my valedictory speech to this distinguished audience at this auspicious time.
Let me begin by rendering unquantifiable thanks to God Almighty for sparing my life through this journey that began about four years ago. Leadership comes from God and for this rare opportunity to pilot the affairs of this noble Service, I will ever remain grateful for His mercies.
I recall with nostalgia, my appointment as the controller General of Prisons, as it then was, on 17 May 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR at a critical period the Service was experiencing challenges in several fronts. The system was replete with decay in infrastructure, acute shortage of operational vehicles, low-capacity building and irregular promotion of personnel. The situation was daunting and pitiable.
Furthermore, our healthcare service was nothing to write home about as hospitals and clinics merely existed in buildings without relevant drugs. More often than not, officers resorted to begging for alms to buy drugs and other essentials for inmates in times of need. Thus, staff morale came to its lowest ebb and unprecedented level of indiscipline became the order of the day, resulting in frequent crises and jailbreaks in frightening successions.
At the beginning, the journey was herculean and the burden intimidating but with determination and unwavering focus, I can say with every sense of fulfilment, that the challenges have been significantly addressed. My administration initiated a total of 918 projects aimed at tackling the challenge of dearth of infrastructure including a 3,000 capacity ultra-modern Custodial Centres in each geo-political zone across the country. Happily, a total of 745 of the projects have been completed while 173 projects are at various stages of completion.
Within this period, we have also been able to address the problem of logistics by procuring a total of 504 assorted operational vehicles to add to our fleet. 36 tractors were procured to revive the moribund Farm Centres to increase output and skills acquisition for the inmates. Our training schools and colleges across the country are now functional and brought to speed in terms of content and quality training. Within the period of my stewardship as the Controller General, I have promoted a total of 30,000 personnel including many that were stagnated for over 14 years.
We equally embarked on massive procurement of drugs and rehabilitation of our hospitals and clinics to which you are all living witnesses, a feat that has restored our dignity as we are no longer seen as beggars. To further reinstall a sense of belonging, our Corrections Officers Cooperative Society (COCOS) has been restructured to have discernible focus and visible investment of our collected sweat. Apart from regular payment of claims to beneficiaries, the hotel standing before you is your investment and a product of prudent management of your contributions. In addition, a housing scheme to provide good accommodation for staff at affordable cost in any State of their choice has been embarked upon beginning with the FCT.
I make bold to say that while my administration held tenaciously to improving the lot of personnel and work environment, indiscipline was seriously frowned at and never tolerated. It is however, heart-warming to say that the body of staff responded to these innovations by improving on their sense of responsibility and dedication to duty as manifested in cessation of jailbreaks and unwarranted escape of inmates.
Significantly, I have successfully piloted the signing of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 by Mr. President. This has ushered in a new vista of hope to address the lingering problem of overcrowding and other associated challenges. However, may I caution that the dividend of this initiative will only manifest to the extent of our ability to leverage on the provisions of the Act through deliberate conscientisation and implementation of the new law. Therefore, you should not rest on your oars but expand the frontiers of seeking requisite knowledge and assistance where possible.
I want to thank His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, for increasing the budget allocation to the Service which has provided the needed lever to tackle most of the age-long challenges. I remain eternally grateful to him for finding me worthy to be entrusted with the onerous task of leading the Service and contributing my quota to the development of my father land.
I owe the immediate past Honourable Minister of Interior, Lt. General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau CFR, PhD a depth of gratitude for his quality leadership and believing in my capability to pilot the affairs of the Service to this enviable height. He provided necessary moral support and encouragement to navigate the numerous challenges that confronted us.
To the present Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, I can not thank you enough for the exemplary leadership and invaluable guidance all through. Sir, your support in maintaining discipline and insistence on delivering quality services at all times served as an impetus for my administration to drive our policy thrust of changing the face of penal management in Nigeria.
I want to specially appreciate my beloved wife, children and lovely grandchildren for their understanding and support which kept the home front stable for me to remain focused in the discharge on my duties. They accommodated my infrequent physical presence and absorbed the spill-over pressure from official engagement with an amazing candour. I thank you for these priceless sacrifices.
To the staff members, I sincerely appreciate your cooperation and resilience to deliver on our collective mandate of providing succour to inmates under our custody. I implore you to remain dedicated and proud of this noble profession as you discharge your duties with utmost commitment and dignity. You must resist all temptations to engage in unwholesome practices that could taint the image of the Service.
With every sense of achievement, I stand to say I came, saw and conquered and I am living the Service much better than I met it over 4 years ago. I wish to urge the person who the Almighty God so wishes to step into my shoes as the CGC to carry out his responsibilities with the fear of God, ensuring justice and fairness to all and sundry. It is my humble desire to see the Service taken to greater heights in all ramifications.
I sincerely thank our development partners, support groups and individuals too numerous to mention for their unflinching support.
Finally, to the distinguished members of the press, I thank you for your assistance in telling the world our story of great change that has helped to shape global perception of penal institution in Nigeria.
Outgone Controller General NCoS