Hails Correctional Service for maintaining COVID-19 free regime

By Omeiza Ajayi – Abuja

The Federal Government said it has begun graduate degree programmes in the Nigerian Correctional Service NCoS, noting that there are at present 649 inmates undergoing degree and postgraduate programmes behind bars.

Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola disclosed this Tuesday in Abuja while commissioning 59 operational vehicles of the Nigerian Correctional Service NCoS.

According to the minister, about 1, 000 inmates have also enrolled for the forthcoming WAEC/NECO examinations.

He commended the Service for maintaining a COVID-19 free regime in its Custodial Centres across the nation, saying as part of efforts to guard against the possible contamination of the centres, the government had embarked on a systematic decongestion programme which has now seen the release of 3, 955 inmates.

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He dismissed as untrue, the incidence of COVID-19 in a custodial facility in Bauchi State, explaining that having opened the facility to receive new inmates, 17 of such persons were brought in and when they were tested, they were found to be positive for Covid-19, hence the decision to keep them in isolation in order not to cross-infect the inmates at the facility.

Aregbesola who said the federal government has a deliberate policy of turning the custodial facilities into “enterprise centres”, added that the NCoS has contributed to agriculture and food production in the country.

“We reactivated Custodial Farm Centres for large scale agricultural production in piggery, fishing, cattle rearing and poultry in different parts of the country. Three Custodial Farm Centres have been selected for large scale farming based on comparative advantage. They are Kujama Farm in Kaduna State for maize; Lakushi Farm in Plateau State for rice and Ozalla Farm in Edo State for palm oil. We have also procured 25 new tractors, combined harvesters, and relevant implements to enhance agricultural productivity in custodial farm centres”, he said.

On reformation of inmates, the minister said the government has created and equipped vocational workshops for trades such as 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.

“May I, therefore, charge the officers of the Service to judiciously use and maintain the vehicles for optimum performance, particularly in light of the prevailing economic challenges facing the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic”, he said.

In his opening remarks, Controller General of Corrections CGC, Jafa’ru Ahmed said a total of 59 operational vehicles consisting of 36 Mini Green Maria Vehicles, 18 Escort Duty Vehicles, and five Customized Green Maria Buses were being commissioned by the Minister.

He said; “Fifty-four of these vehicles were procured with the 2019 Appropriation while five vehicles were part of the 2018 Appropriation. The procurement of the vehicles is part of the government’s deliberate efforts to enhance the capacity of the Nigerian Correctional Service to deliver on its statutory responsibilities particularly as it concerns the conveyance of the inmates to and from courts thereby facilitating inmates’ access to justice.

“I wish to state at this point that the Nigerian Correctional Service has received more governmental interventions in this present administration of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR more than any other past Administrations in recent history especially on the areas of logistics and general infrastructure.

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In fact, between 2016 and 2018, the Service has commissioned a total of 397 vehicles consisting of 218 vehicles with 2016 Appropriation, 49 vehicles with 2017 Appropriation, and 130 vehicles with 2018 Appropriation.

The procurement of these 54 vehicles being commissioned today, therefore, brings the total number of vehicles procured by the Nigerian Correctional Service under the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR to four hundred and fifty-one (451).

Indeed, the Nigerian Correctional Service has not had so good in recent history. And more than ever before, I wish to assure the Nation that the vehicles will always be judiciously used to ensure speedy dispensation of justice in the country.

“Nevertheless, the Service still needs more vehicles to meet the expected targets of conveying inmates almost on a daily basis to the over 5,000 Courts spread across the country. This, therefore, calls for the sustenance of the budgetary funding in order to facilitate the procurement of additional vehicles in due course”, he stated.

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