By Omeiza Ajayi
The Nigerian Correctional Service NCoS has said there are currently 2, 745 inmates on death row, urging state governors to either approve their execution or commute them to life imprisonment to allow the service effectively engage them in skills acquisition and other rehabilitative efforts.
This was as the Service announced that no fewer than 22 inmates who have been successfully deradicalised by its personnel have sat for the Senior School Certificate Examination, a development described by the service as part of its rehabilitation efforts.
Service Public Relations Officer, Controller Francis Enobore disclosed this on Wednesday in Abuja when he led journalists on a guided tour of the Service’s Farm Centre in Dukpa, a suburb of Gwagwalada Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory FCT.
During the tour which afforded journalists the opportunity of seeing inmates actively engaged in animal husbandry and bakery, Enobore said many condemned inmates were reluctant in engaging in farm work as they feel hapless about their fate.
“Only convicted inmates are trained in our farm centres. Unfortunately, there are many awaiting trial inmates than convicted ones. In Nigeria, only about 24 states have domesticated the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015. Today, we have 2, 745 condemned inmates in our facilities across the country. Because of our political and democratic setting today, most states Chief Executives are not willing to approve the execution of the condemned inmates.
“Fine, if they do not want to do that, they should at least commute them to life imprisonment. Interestingly, however, the new Nigeria Correctional Service Act has empowered the Chief Justice of a state to commute such inmates to life imprisonment where they have spent at least 10 years behind bars after their sentencing”, he explained.
The spokesman stated that the doggedness of the Comptroller General, Ja’afaru Ahmed has provided fundamental changes in offenders management, as it is evidenced in the reinvigorated reformation and rehabilitation programmes in the custodial centres across the country and part of which is the multimillion naira bakery and confectionery unit established in three locations in 2019.
He said the Service has equally been making efforts to address the age-long infrastructural deficit through construction and rehabilitation of inmates’ cells, including the provision of bed and beddings to enhance humane custody.
While he added that 3000 capacity ultramodern custodial centres have been approved for all the geopolitical zones, with that of Northwest in Kano on the verge of completion, while works have started on that of North Central in Abuja and Bori in Rivers state.
He said: “a total of 32 satellite custodial centres shot down by Boko Haram insurgency have also been re-opened. To improve access to justice for pre-trial detainees, a total of 382 operational vehicles have been procured and distributed between 2016 and 2018. With this development, inmates are now taken to court for hearing as and when due.
“In the area of health care, the Ja’afaru led administration has continued to give premium attention to making basic health care accessible to inmates. This has helped to mitigate health complications usually arising from overcrowding in prison cells.
“While extending our condolences, once again, to the families of the five inmates who lost their lives in the unfortunate electrical incident in Ikoyi MSCC, Lagos, I like to restate the irreversible commitment of the CG to the safety and welfare of all inmates in Nigeria. To this end, a reassessment of utility services in our facilities nation-wide is currently ongoing in order to devise possible ways of coping with the phenomenal overcrowding in the system and avoid recurrence.
“It is also significant to mention that the hitherto recurring incidence of jailbreaks, escapes and riots in custodial centres are now things of the past. Corrections Information Management System (CIMS) has been developed to capture inmates’ biometrics. This CIMS will assist the Service to Identify Inmates and aid their case management. The project has taken off already in 80 locations across the country,” he explained.