Attacks on correctional centres – Vanguard
OF late, there had been series of attacks on military, police and correctional centres facilities. The gory attacks on police stations and other government institutions are launched to strike fear. There have been more attacks on military and police facilities than correctional centres. The military and police provide security for our correctional centres across Nigeria.
The attacks on Nigeria Defence Academy, correctional centres, etc. are part of security challenges facing Nigeria which is faced with an unprecedented wave of different but overlapping security crises – from kidnapping to extremist insurgencies. Almost every corner of the country has been hit by violence and crime and these pose a great danger to our correctional centres. The scale of the insecurity threatens the very fabric of Nigerian society.
Between 2016 and 2021 more than 3,000 prisoners/inmates have been illegally freed from Nigeria correctional centres due to security challenges.
In five months, 10 correctional centres have been attacked. In November, 2020 while counting the costs of the #ENDSARS protests, Information Minister Lai Mohammed had said eight prisons were attacked, “with 1,957 inmates set free and 31 staff injured.
Rauf Aregbesola became Minister of Interior in 2019 and he is working hard to prevent future attacks on correctional facilities. I must blame the menace of correctional centres’ congestion on the nature of criminal justice system in Nigeria.
Criminal justice system encompasses all the paraphernalia of justice system, ranging from police, court, correctional centres and other law enforcement agencies. Investigation takes weeks or months to conclude and when a matter is concluded on investigation and brought to court for trial, if charges are not filed against them in a court of competent jurisdiction you see there will be delay.
Minister of Interior is working round the clock within his constitutional powers to decongest correctional centres. Recently, Aregbesola called on the 36 states governors to sign death warrants. In recent years, there are calls for death penalty due to increase in cases of banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and terrorism.
This is the time in Nigeria when we need the death sentence more than another time. Between October, 2020 to date 3,000 inmates have escaped from Nigeria Correctional Service yet states governors have refused to sign death warrants of 3,008 inmates condemned by courts.
Aregbesola is facing dilemma over what to do with the 3,008 criminals in the nation’s correctional centres that have been condemned to death by the courts. The silent moratorium by state governors which borders on their unwillingness to endorse death sentences of condemned criminals is a big problem to the minister.
The slow pace of justice dispensation in the country is often attributed to long and, sometimes, mischievous adjournment of cases which have led to non-dispensation of most cases and subsequent abandonment of inmates in prisons.
Unfortunately, due to the inherent lapses in the system, the correctional centres system which is supposed to be reformatory has eventually turned to punitive, thereby defeating the true essence of sending convicts to prisons. The implication of this reversed system of prison administration is that inmates of our correctional centres come out more criminally minded than they were before conviction.
Also, the constitutional duties of the chief judges to visit prisons should be consistently complied with. This power vested in the chief judges to visit and release inmates with offences or those that have over-spent their prison terms and are still there, would help to drastically decongest the prisons.
Similarly, there is the institutionalised way of delaying trials by way of holding charge. Time has come for the nation to do away with such stop-gaps. Of equal importance is the upward review of funding of the Judiciary and the right judiciary personnel to do the job.
With adequate funding, prison authorities will be able to bring inmates to and from the courts to the prisons. In the present situation, there are instances where the courts cannot sit because there are no vehicles to transport inmates to the courts.
The police also should be given the wherewithal to perform their constitutional role in justice dispensation. It is our view that when these are done, the justice delivery system will improve and this, in turn, will help to decongest our prisons for a saner society.
Aregbesola is bringing reliable field-proven technology backed by professional expertise to safeguard correctional facilicities and detention centres across Nigeria within the available resources.
The technology will enable guards to monitor and track inmates, detect illegal activities, isolate and control violent incidents and prevent intrusion to secure correctional centres, but finance to execute his security plans is his major problem.
Alongside improving security measures, the Federal Government is also putting in place many innovative schemes in correctional centres aimed at rehabilitating inmates and turning them into productive citizens upon their release.
However, authorities of the Nigeria Correctional Service,NCS, say they are doing everything possible to fortify security at their facilities across the country. Sophisticated weapons, Armoured Personnel Carriers, APC, and others have been acquired to prevent further attacks.
Aregbesola is working with other security agencies to prevent attacks on correctional facilities. They will provide Armoured Personnel Carriers, APC, and some other sophisticated weapons that can help us to fortify correctional facilities. For intelligence gathering, the services involved have also been forthcoming as they are increasing their reach and collaboration to ensure that these incidents do not occur again.
Some of these facilities that have been attacked are located in areas that are now surrounded by private developers. These correctional facilities are supposed to have what buffer areas, and the buffer areas are not supposed to be less than 200 metres round the correctional facilities.
Donald, a social commentator, wrote from Abuja
Vanguard News Nigeria