We’ve no single positive case,says NCoS Controller General
By Joseph Erunke
ABUJA-THE Prisoners Rehabilitation Welfare Action,PRAWA in collaboration with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa,OSIWA,Wednesday, donated COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipments,PPEs,to the Nigerian Correctional Centre.
The COVID-19 intervention materials presented to the service included computers, mobile communication modems and mobile phones for virtual visitation,50,000 pieces of face masks and 1,000 face shields for the protection of inmates and correctional officers.
Others are 47 spraying cans for disinfection of custodial centers and 100 pedal operated water tanks for hand washing.
Executive Director of PRAWA, Dr Uju Agomoh,speaking at the formal presentation of the items at the NCoS Headquarters, Abuja,explained that the most of the items were “made by inmates in the correctional facility.”
“It is very important to mention that the 50,000 facial masks which we are donating today were made by inmates in our correctional facility. It is even more important to stress that the face masks produced by the inmates are of the best standard and quality. The 100 pedal operated water tanks were completely fabricated by inmates without outside support,” she disclosed.
She said,”For over two decades, PRAWA has been committed to promoting institutional reforms, creating access to justice, rehabilitation, and social development for offenders, ex-offenders, torture victims and youths at risk.”
According to her,”Even in the midst of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, our resolve has not waned, rather we have continued to seek more improved ways to serve the Correctional Community and to support the Service to effectively discharge it duties.”
“It is in fulfillment of our divine mission that we are here today to make a formal presentation of COVID-19 intervention to the Controller General,” she added.
Noting that “virtual visitation has become imperative given the restrictions placed on physical visits to the correctional facilities by the federal government”, she said as a proactive and technology driven organisation, PRAWA was ” seeking to bridge the gap occasioned by the restrictions, by providing a virtual platform where inmates can interact with their families and lawyers seamlessly. “
“This initiative is going to run as a pilot in 17 correctional facilities across the federation and will in no small way ameliorate the obvious plight of inmates that restriction has affected in many ways,” she said.
“To cushion the heavy burden of internet cost, we shall be providing six months free internet connectivity to the Correctional Centers where this technology will be deployed, to enable this initiative take off without hitches. We will also be training correctional staff that will drive this process,” she added,as she expressed the organisation’s gratitude to its” technical partners, OSIWA, for sponsoring this project and being part of this historic event which is the first of its kind in Nigeria.”
She spoke further:”In utilizing the manpower within our correctional centers, PRAWA has demonstrated practically how inmates can be productively engaged and sustainably rehabilitated with skills that can aid their reintegration into society. This is in line with Section 14(1) of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, which provides that; inmates shall be provided with opportunity for educational and vocational training, which shall be administered in a way to generate fund to aid the earning scheme for the inmates’ aftercare and other support services towards their rehabilitation.
“We challenge government agencies and private organizations to always employ the services and enterprise of talented inmates in our correctional centers.
“PRAWA’s commitment to enhancing access to justice has been demonstrated by the practical steps we took in developing guidance and user manuals for virtual court visits, as a way of ensuring that people in need of justice are not left stranded. We went further to develop guidance manual for court operations, training and guidance manual for custodial and non-custodial officers, including training of non-custodial staff with the funding support of European Union and the technical support of British Council and RoLAC.
“In the coming days, PRAWA will through the support of OSIWA, donate COVID-19 intervention materials such as face shield, face masks and hand sanitizers to key stakeholders in the justice sector such as Legal Aid Council, pro bono lawyers, paralegals, prosecutors and other members of the judiciary.
“To support the rehabilitation and reintegration of petty offenders and released inmates in some locations, we will be offering economic palliatives to ease their recovery.
PRAWA remains prepared to partner with government, donors, and private organizations, including other NGO and CSOs, which share the same vision of “a humane and secure society that corrects and empowers to prevent crime, violence and torture”. We shall continue to provide necessary technical assistance to the Nigerian Correctional Service as it strives to actualize the lofty objectives set for it in the NCoS Act of 2019.
“The review of the Nigerian Correctional Service Standing order which we are currently handling, will be carried out with utmost professionalism and sense of duty to give the Service a new direction in line with the new law and international best practices.”
Speaking on behalf of OSIWA and the Head of the Nigeria Office, Mr Jude Udo Illo, the Programme Assistant, Tsema Okoye,expressed gratitude to the Nigerian Correctional Services and PRAWA for initiating “this urgent intervention to the NCoS during the COVID 19 pandemic.”
“This initiative is part of OSIWA’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund to implement an Urgent Response to COVID 19 Emergency Support to the Nigerian Correctional Service,,inmates, petty offenders and other vulnerable persons,” she said.
She spoke further:”This intervention is urgent because the Nigerian Correctional Centers are known for its overcrowded cells, high inmate population often exceeding the official capacities of these facilities, high number of awaiting trial persons, high number of petty and minor offender- many of whom are poor and vulnerable.
“The social distancing and improved hygiene are almost impossible to adhere to in detention/holding facilities which are often times overcrowded with limited supplies of hygienic materials.
“Majority of petty offenders we find today who are being held are either awaiting trial or convicted and are at higher risk of contacting the coronavirus disease. Which is why OSIWA, partnered with PRAWA on this project.
“At OSIWA, we believe that effective response means that all hands are on deck to plug the gaps that impede rights protection in Nigeria’s systems. Therefore, PRAWA has sought to fill the gap through this project. Activities under this project include:Procurement and distribution of face masks for correctional staff.
“Procurement and distribution of sanitation and hygiene tools for correctional centers for inmates use.
Pilot virtual platform to facilitate inmates’ contacts with their family members and lawyers.
“Provision of support towards transportation, accommodation, food and other essentials for inmates released from custody.
Provision of essential relief materials to the identified vulnerable people who would have been victims of unwarranted arrests and detention by the law enforcement officers during the pandemic.
“Public Awareness (publicity), Advocacy, and Development and distributions of IEC materials / policy briefs /fact sheets focusing on COVID 19.
The Controller General of Correctional Service, Alhaji Jaafaru Ahmed, speaking at the occasion, said the service had not recorded a single case of COVID-19,saying the development was due to measures it put in place to tackle the pandemic.
He disclosed that the service has begun admission of inmates into Custodian Centres in 28 states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), adding that 8 states were yet to comply with the guidelines for COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have been investing a lot in the health of the inmates, especially during this coronavirus pandemic.“We have also been receiving donations from other organisations.
“I can assure you that no COVID-19 case at our custodial centres,” he said.Ja’afaru also said over 20,000 offenders were currently in non-custodial situation in the Federal Capital Territory as part of efforts to decongest the custodial centres and ensure good hygienic situation,”he said.