Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has hinted of plans by the Federal Government to construct 3000 capacity custodian centers across the six geo-political zones to tackle congestion.
The minister made this disclosure to members of the Order of the Knights of St. Mulumba (Nigeria), the Lagos Metropolitan Council and other participants at the one-day Policy Advocacy Conference on Decongestion of Correctional Centres held to mark the 60th anniversary of the Council in Lagos yesterday.
Ogbeni Aregbesola said the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCOS) mandate is to rehabilitate and reintegrate inmates back into society and regretted that the Service has no power to reject inmates or release the mat will to determine their length of stay only until after adjudication through the judicial system. He stated that the Service has been doing all possible and collaborating with bodies such as St. Mulumba on the ways to decongest the centre.
Speaking at the event, Aregbesola, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Nigeria Correctional Services, Suleiman Tala, stated that the NCOS has been carrying out its core mandate religiously especially in the area of rehabilitation and preparations for life after incarceration saying some 3000inmates are currently undergoing different degrees programmes with the National Open University while 50 others are studying various programmes for National Certificate of Education.”
Presently the Service has 12 Special Study Centres indifferent Custodial facilities across the country. Since the inception of the collaboration between the NCOS and the National Open University, a total of 36inmates have graduated in different fields of study such as Conflict and Peace Resolution, Political Science, Sociology, Guidance, and counseling among others,” he added.
He commended the Order of the Knight of St. Mulumba for the well thought out conference and urged civil society and faith-based organisations to emulate them and play critical roles in rendering services to inmates of the NCOS through offering pro Bono cases, and paying fees for less offenders.
Also speaking, the Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba Usman, represented by the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, Hakeem Odumosu, noted that some of the factors influencing congestion in Correctional Centres in Nigeria, include increase in crime rate, changing dimensions and patterns of crime, scientific nature of crime, effects of social dislocation and overburdened criminal justice system among others.
“As we are all aware, it is the Correctional Centres that are statutorily established to keep persons to serve punishment for crimes they have committed or while awaiting trial after being accused of a crime and not granted bail by the courts or granted bail but not been able to meet their bail conditions,” he said.
On his part, the Comptroller General of Corrections, Haliru Nababa, represented by the Assistant Comptroller General, Daniel Odharo said the event is apt and coming at a time when all hands are expected to be on deck to address overcrowding of inmates affecting the country.
On his part, the Metro Grand Knight, William Adebisi, said there have been many other attempts by different governments and many NGOs and other professional bodies and stakeholders in the past to address the decongested correctional centres with no appreciable result but, stressed that no stone will be left unturned to find a lasting solution to the challenge.
Also speaking at the Conference, Lagos State Catholic Archbishop, Alfred Adewale Martins who was represented by Rev. Monsignor Paschal Uwaezeapu stated that decongestion of the prisons would continue to be a matter as long as the government has refused to fix the country.
Fielding questions from journalists, the Chairman of the Conference Committee Mr. George Agu explained that the Metropolitan Council has always been extending hands of fellowship to the centres and the inmates by way of donations both cash and material in order to alleviate the suffering at the correctional centres due to overcrowding.