Joseph Inokotong, Abuja
The Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) has maintained an infection-free regime in its custodial centres despite an increase in the number of COVID-19 pandemic cases recorded in Nigeria, according to the Federal Government.
The Service has embarked on the construction of three units of 3,000-cell high capacity custodial centres each in three geo-political zones in the country – Kano (North West), Karchi-Abuja (North-Central) and Bori Rivers State (South-South), in a bid to address the challenges being faced by the NCoS in accommodating inmates.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, during the commissioning of 59 operational vehicles at the NCoS headquarters, yesterday in Abuja.
Commending the management of the NCoS for being one of the few in the world not to record any case of COVID-19 so far, the minister said: ‘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.’
Aregbesola commended the officers and management team of the NCoS under the leadership of the Controller-General of Corrections, Ja’afaru Ahmed, for their dedication and commitment to duty, especially at a trying period in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, one of the challenges being faced by the Service is accommodation for inmates, a situation that is, however, 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,’ the minister said.
He admitted that though the logistics challenge may not have been fully addressed, nevertheless, a lot of progress has been made in that respect, citing the provision of the vehicles that were commissioned as a continuation of the overall steps taken toward the facilitation of inmates’ access to justice and general wellbeing.
Aregbesola affirmed that the progressive changes evident at the NCoS are as a result of deliberate efforts of the Buhari Administration to address the neglect of the past, with improved budgetary provisions, infrastructure upgrade, improved logistics and staff and inmates’ welfare, among other considerations.
He pointed out that to fulfil the NCoS creed as an authentic correctional service, the government has embarked on and has succeeded 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 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.’
The minister assured that the Federal Government will continue to take steps to improve the conditions of the inmates in the custodial centres in line with global best practices, and appealed 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.
The Controller-General of Corrections, Ja’Afaru Ahmed, speaking at the occasion, assured that the new operational vehicles would be judiciously used and maintained for optimum performance, particularly in light of the prevailing economic challenges facing the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He explained that 59 commissioned operational vehicles consist of 36 Mini Green Maria Vehicles, 18 Escort Duty Vehicles and five Customized Green Maria Buses.
According to him, ‘the procurement of these 54 vehicles being commissioned today (Tuesday), therefore, brings the total number of vehicles procured by the Nigerian Correctional Service under the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) to 451.’