From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has disclosed that 3,906 inmates, who escaped from various custodial centres, were still missing.
He made the disclosure during a media briefing organised by the Presidential Media Team in Abuja, yesterday, adding that 4,369 inmates escaped from the centres since 2020. Aregbesola said 984 have been recaptured.
He said the biometrics of all custodial inmates in the country have been taken, adding that this would enable the escapees to be tracked and rearrested.
He said: “How long can they continue to run from the state? The state is a patient bird. You can run but you can never hide. We have their biometrics. Whenever and wherever they appear to transact any business, their cover will be blown.
“I will like to inform Nigerians that we have captured the biometric information of all inmates in the facilities of Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) working in partnership with the Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
“Therefore, we have the capacity and are tracking all escapees from our facilities. In addition, we are working with and have shared the details of escapees with INTERPOL, to check the risks of
cross border movements.”
The minister also explained that 465 inmates are running various degrees around the country, adding that 85 of this are running post-graduate programmes, including four who are doing Ph.D programmes.
He said 560 inmates have been enrolled for WAEC/NECO examinations while 2,300 are enrolled for Adult Literacy classes in several custodial centres.
The minister assured the problem associated with procuring international passports will soon be over as he announced that 2,742,207 passports have been issued by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in the last two years.
“It is important to inform you we have witnessed growing demand for the Nigerian passport both locally and by Nigerians in diaspora. A total of 2,742,207 passports of different categories were issued between 2019 to date.
“The year-on-year increasing growth rate is, however, putting a lot of pressure on the current processing structure and resources and further justifies the need for a reform in the passport application and processing system in line with the current reality,” he said.
The minister announced since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, not a single case has been recorded in the custodial centres.
He said his ministry is not unaware of the challenges Nigerians face trying to process passports, adding that efforts are bing made to deal with the problem.
“The ministry is aware of the challenges faced by applicants for processing and reissue of passports. I want to use this unique opportunity to assure Nigerians that the current experience will soon be a thing of the past. New production and capture centres will be opened in the next few weeks to ease access by Nigerians all over the world.
“I am pleased to inform Nigerians that the ministry has taken substantial measures to address shortages of the e-passport booklets. This year alone, the ministry approved a special deployment of over 600,000 passport booklets, the largest of its kind ever done, to cushion the effects of shortages being experienced,” he said.
On the effort to tackle corruption, the minister pointed out the recent sting operation carried out by NIS Acting Comptroller General, Isa Jere, at the Ikoyi passport office, saying reforms such as new appointment management system are being put in place to rout corruption.
Aregbesola also stated that 174,000 jobs have been created through the administration of expatriate quotas and business permits.
“Between 2019 and October 2021, over 87,000 expatriate quotas were granted, 951 business permits were granted and 598 licenses were issued to public places of worship for the conduct of statutory marriages.
“172,000 understudy jobs have been created through the expatriate quota administration system. We recently inaugurated a ministerial task force on the monitoring of expatriate quota.
“The primary objective is to audit, monitor and enforce the conditions for the approval of expatriate quota and foreign business permit. Nigerians may wish to note that one of the conditions for the approval of expatriate quota is that for every expatriate position, the company must employ two Nigerians to understudy the expatriate.”
On the response to the recent collapsed multi-storey building in Ikoyi, Aregbesola said the Federal Fire Service (FFS) did not shirk its responsibility as they did their best in the salvage operation.
He said the FFS officials were the first responders at the site and did their their utmost in the circumstance.