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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

FG to halt feeding of prison inmates – Minister

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The Federal Government of Nigeria has recently announced that it will stop the feeding of the 75,507 inmates in 244 federal correctional facilities nationwide as of December 31, 2023. It is expected that state governments will begin feeding their own state offenders from then on. The decision was made known by the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, during the commissioning of the Command Headquarters of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) in Owerri, Imo State.

Aregbesola stated that more than 90% of inmates are state offenders, therefore, state governments should begin investing in corrections. He added that this move would help to decongest custodial facilities nationwide. It is worth noting that the federal government had previously announced its plan to spend N22.4 billion on feeding inmates across the country, which is budgeted for in the 2023 Appropriation Act.

According to the Minister, at least 80% of inmates are awaiting trial and this has led to congestion in prisons with 82 of them being overcrowded. The minister emphasized the need for a comprehensive review of the nation’s criminal justice system to address the alarming figure of inmates who are awaiting trial languishing in jail.

The federal government has been making efforts to improve the reform process at custodial centres through increased budgetary provisions and the construction of new infrastructure at the facilities. In addition, the government has been constructing 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 centres will be completed.

The recent constitutional amendment has made corrections a concurrent affair, which means that state governments can take advantage of this opportunity to reform their justice administration system by putting a cap on the trial period and ensuring the swift administration of justice.

It is crucial to note that neither the Minister nor the NCoS has the power of detention or release of inmates, as they are brought to the facilities through a valid court warrant and are released by the same process. Convicts can be released by the President or a State Governor exercising the prerogative of mercy. The responsibility of the NCoS, therefore, is to keep them in safe custody and keep society safe from them while rehabilitating and reintegrating them into society when they complete their terms.

The federal government’s efforts have continued to yield positive results with various feats recorded by inmates in detention, and the Minister declared that President Muhammadu Buhari had signed into law a constitutional amendment removing the correctional service from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List in the Constitution.

The Minister further stated that custodial facilities across Nigeria are daily strengthened to contain various attempts by enemies of state to break into the vital national security arm. The Nigerian Correctional Service also has a robust educational programme for inmates which has been very successful.

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