FG to stop feeding States inmates Dec. 31 - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Friday, May 12, 2023

FG to stop feeding States inmates Dec. 31

......asks Govs to build Prisons

The Federal Government has said it would stop the feeding of states inmates being held in its custodial centres by December 31, urging state governors to take advantage of recent Constitutional amendments that has placed Correctional Services in the Concurrent Legislative List.

Consequently, the federal government has advised the sub-national entities to establish their own custodial facilities in line with the new amendment.

Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola made the appeal at the commissioning of the Command Headquarters of the Nigerian Correctional Service NCoS)l in Owerri, the Imo State capital.

Media Adviser to the Minister, Sola Fasure in a statement said Aregbesola argued that the development would help to further decongest the custodial facilities which currently harbour state offenders who make up more than 90 percent of the total number of inmates nationwide.

Aregbesola also added that efforts of the Federal Government have continued to yield positive results with various landmark feats recorded by inmates in detention.

He said, since President Muhammadu Buhari has signed into law, a constitutional amendment removing the Correctional Service from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List in the Constitution, the Federal Government will stop feeding state inmates by December 31, 2023.

“Furthermore, by January 1, 2024, the Federal Government will stop feeding state inmates kept in federal facilities. State governments must now start budgeting for feeding their inmates in federal facilities while we wait for them to build their own facilities.”, Ogbeni Aregbesola said.

He also also reiterated the need for a comprehensive review of the nation's criminal justice system in a bid to addressing the alarming figure of inmates who are awaiting trial and languishing in jail.

According to him, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has done a lot in making the reformation process at Custodial Centres impactful through increased budgetary provision as well as the upgrade of old and construction of new infrastructure at the facilities.

Aregbesola said; "One big challenge we have at Corrections is congestion, especially at the urban centres where the population density is high and human relations are more complex, leading to higher crime rate and the need to keep some people behind bars. But we are addressing this challenge with the construction of six mega custodial centres in the six geopolitical zones of the country. The ones in Kano and Abuja are ready and with regular funding, the remaining will be completed. 

"It is also hoped that State Governments will take advantage of the constitution amendment recently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari which makes corrections a concurrent affair. It is on record that more than 90 per cent of inmates in our facilities are state offenders. It is important therefore that State Governments begin to invest in corrections.

"It is even more important to reform the criminal justice system. I have been making the case and I will continue to do so, that 70 per cent of inmates are awaiting trial and constitute the majority in our facilities. The sad thing about this is we cannot statutorily begin their process of reformation because they are assumed to be innocent, except for those who voluntarily wish to participate in any of our programmes. 

"Many of them have spent time in detention longer than the maximum sentence their alleged offence carries. This predispose them to violent conduct and they are the biggest source of the challenge of discipline and control we have at the custodial centres. State governments should reform their justice administration system by putting a cap on the trial period and ensure swift administration of justice. This will eliminate the long period of trial and the perpetual detention of suspects and the injustice this constitutes".

The Minister also stated that neither his office nor the NCoS can on its own release inmates.

He said; "Let me use this opportunity to clarify a misconception in the public. NCoS or the Minister has no power of detention or release of inmates. They are brought to our facilities through a valid court warrant and it is by the same process that they are released. Convicts can also be released by the President or a state Governor exercising the prerogative of mercy. Our own responsibility therefore is to keep them in safe custody and keep society safe from them – while we rehabilitate them and reintegrate them back into society when they complete their terms."

The Minister stressed that custodial facilities across Nigeria are daily strengthened to contain various attempts by enemies of state to break into the vital national security arm.

"On the latter, we have been successful. While there have been unfortunate cases of recidivism, the overwhelming number of our inmates have returned to society to be better citizens and contributing their own quota to national development. 

"For instance, we were treated to sublime entertainment at Ilesa by a musical band of inmates whose performance will dwarf most of the bands we have in our society. Hopefully they will continue and become great in the land upon their release.

"We also have a robust educational programme for inmates which has been very successful. From our record, 23 inmates are undergoing Post Graduate Programmes comprising of One PhD; 16 Masters Degree; and six Post Graduate Diploma Programmes.

"A total of 465 inmates are studying various Degree Programmes such as Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution; Criminology and Security Studies, Political Science, Law, etc.

In addition, 1,404 wrote SSCE and 634 passed with five credits, including English and Mathematics, while 4,757 enrolled for Adult Education programme and 1,162 graduated. These are just a few.

"Vocational education enrolment also soared as 280 inmates made up of 267 males and 13 females acquired Trade Test Grades III, II and I in sundry vocations like woodwork, welding, shoe-making, barbing, dress-making, etc. 

The Minister reiterated the need for officers to guard the custodial facilities very well and prevent any security breach as had happened in the recent past. "I was last in Owerri in the wake of the attack on our facility here, emanating from the #endsars riots nationwide and sporadic attacks on custodial centres across the country.

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