February 20, 2021

Balancing equation @ correctional services

Emeka Obasi

New Service chiefs were appointed recently and the South-East geo-political zone was ignored. No officer of South-East extraction has so far been deemed fit to head any of the various para- military agencies

By Emeka Obasi

I see myself as a stakeholder in what was known as Nigerian Prisons Service but changed to Nigerian Correctional Services (NCoS). Whatever affects that para -military organisation also affects the nation. Now the name suggests that our leaders need to balance the polity.

New Service chiefs were appointed recently and the South-East geo-political zone was ignored. No officer of South-East extraction has so far been deemed fit to head any of the various para- military agencies. The Controller -General of NCoS, Ja’afaru Ahmed, from Kebbi State retired from service in January 2021.

There is no substantive CG yet. John Mrabure is acting as boss at the moment but is due for retirement. I have a feeling that fair play must be applied in picking the next CG. We have enough Service and Para- military chiefs from the North. It would be inconsiderate to pick a Northerner as Ahmed’s successor.

I am sure there are officer gentlemen from other zones who are eminently qualified to move up. However, the South- East deserves another shot at this plum job. The story is not sweet to the ear at all. It is like there is a deliberate policy to diminish the people.

On July 1, 2005, Okwara Uche Kalu, from the South-East was appointed Acting CG. This followed the exit of Abraham Iyorker Akpe. It was expectations turned to exasperation. Kalu acted for one year and was never confirmed. Olusola Adigun Ogundipe moved in and was there until 2012.

Zakari Ohinoyi Ibrahim took Ogundipe’s place  and left in 2014. Aminu Suley acted for five months before stepping aside for Dr. Peter Ezenwa Ekpendu from the South-East on December 5,2014. Ekpendu spent just two years before Ahmed was announced as the next CG.

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This is the same agency where the first substantive indigenous Director of Prisons, Frank Sumola Giwa-Osagie, spent 10 years and six months between 1961 and 1972. The rank of Controller- General was first worn by Lily Ojo in 1991. He retired in 1995.

I also know that A. A. Ahmadu was in charge for about 11 years, from 1975 to 1986. Even Ibrahim Mohammed Jarma, the man who introduced weapons training spent six years as boss. Carrying arms was not novel for  the second Director of Prisons, Lt.col E. L. Salier and the fourth, Col. V. L. Mabb, were soldiers.

Mabb was in office for 11 years and three months between 1932 and 1943.

I insist on fair play in choosing the  next CG because the Correctional Services and Sports have come a long way. Giwa- Osagie was Vice President of the Amateur Athletics Association of Nigeria in the 1970s. He was picked on merit as Director. For a man who attended Kings College, Lagos and joined as a cadet in 1948, that appointment was generally accepted.

Steven Ibn Akiga was Minister of Sports in 2002. We met in Japan and he said he was a member of the Prisons Football Club. Akiga was also Aide de Camp (ADC) to Jomo Adapoyi, Director of Prisons between 1972 and 1975.

David Ejoke perhaps remains one of the best athletes produced by the Correctional Services. He won two medals at the First All African Games, Brazzaville ’65. Ejoke made it to two Olympic Games, Tokyo ’64 and Mexico ’68 respectively.

My good friend, Malam Alhassan Yakmut, is today, Secretary, Civil Defence, Correctional, Fire and Immigration Services Board (CDCFIB). He represented Nigeria in Volleyball and was a Director, at the Federal Ministry of Sports and Youth Development. Yakmut is very popular in the South-East where he kept the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu glowing as Zonal Coordinator.

Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, is an Ijesha man. May I remind him that there is a strong bond between the Igbo and Ijesha- Yoruba. He knows that the Ijesha Progressive Association Canada (IPAC) is led by an Igbo man from Enugu. I am sure,beyond politics, he is supposed to make recommendations based on merit.

I am a keen watcher of developments in the Correctional Services because it is like family business. My grandfather, Chief Obasi Onukwuire, was made a Warrant Chief in 1912 through the influence of his kid brother, Uchegbu, a Warder. Uchegbu’s wife, Sarah, called her husband ‘Gand roba’, for warders were known as Gang Drivers.

The Traditional ruler of my town, Eze Nelson Obasi, retired from Service, as a Controller. I know so much about the big Correctional Services farms in Ibite Olo. I also met a Controller at Ikoyi, I guess, Mrs. Ononye in 2007. I was told she was good in Karate during training.

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I had an in- law, Chief Henry Ehijator, who retired as Controller of Prisons, old Anambra State. He helped the Esan of Edo State in the Correctional Services as much as Chief Tony Anenih did in the police. They were contemporaries. I also know that CG Ogundipe is one of the younger siblings of Brig. Babafemi Ogundipe.

So when I speak passionately about this para-military organisation, I am in order. President Buhari must be informed that at this time when ethnic tension is high, it will be politically wrong to give the CG job to someone from the North.

It will be politically correct to look for a candidate from the South-East, based on merit. I am so sure that should Yakmut and Aregbesola shine their eyes, they will find one worthy senior officer from the South-East. Customs, Immigration, EFCC are all headed by Northerners.

I am personally going to write a protest letter should this job elude the South-East. President Buhari is also my friend, those who think they have connections at the Villa must respect my friendship with the President. And if the wrong candidate is announced, I will find out exactly what happened.

Ohanaeze, Afenifere, Arewa Consultative Forum, Middle Belt Forum and the South-South Peoples Assembly will definitely wade into this appointment. Enough of injustice. I am so sure those who think Mr. President is not watching are in for a big surprise.

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