By Ibironke Ariyo
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola says state governments will now be feeding and accommodating inmates in their states.
He said this followed the recent consultational amendment which placed Correctional Services on the concurrent list.
Aregbesola gave the insight while speaking at a two-day High-Level Conference on Decongestion and Corrections Management, on Thursday in Abuja.
“This simply means that states are now empowered to establish their own Correctional Services and facilities.
“States which do not have correctional facilities would have to pay the Federal Government for the feeding and accommodation of their inmates,” the minister said.
According to him, this is a huge relief to the Federal Government which used to shoulder the burden of accommodating and feeding inmates.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that in 2023, the Federal Government had earmarked N22.44 billion to feed inmates across 244 correctional facilities in the country.
The minister lamented that the huge amount was draining the coppers of the Federal Government.
“These facilities are being run by the Federal Government. It should be noted that the criminal justice system of Nigeria makes provision for state and federal offences.
“However, until the amendment of the Constitution, only the Federal Government was in charge of custodial centres.
“With the amendment of the Constitution, states are now empowered to build correctional centres and facilities to house offenders who are convicted and sentenced for committing state offences.
“Where states are unable to build custodial centres, it is believed that they can suggest ways to collaborate with the Federal Government in feeding and housing these state offenders,’’ he added.
Aregbesola said that the conference had brought to the fore, applicable laws to aid the reform of correctional services, including custodial and non-custodial measures .
He said that Section 12 (4-12) of the NCoS Act, gave the Service the powers to reject inmates when custodial centres are full.
“By the provision of the Act, the Controller-General, NCoS, is mandated to inform the head of the judiciary of when the custodial centres have exceeded their capacity.
“This is necessary, so that more offenders are not sent to the centres to serve their sentence. Where his information is not heeded, he is mandated to reject new inmates.
“It is hoped that the above measure will curb the dumping tendencies leading to overcrowding of the custodial centres.
“This will be by encouraging the payment of fines for simple offences, non-custodial sentencing and also building and construction of new correctional facilities,’’ the minister said.
The Controller General, Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS), Haliru Nababa said that the sad cases of jail breaks had claimed the lives of of officers and inmates, and escape of prisoners.
Nababa said that the trend, posed a grave threat to the sovereignty and prosperity of the country.
“However, we are not resting on our oars to ensure that we stem the tide.
“We have stepped-up security in and around our Custodial Centres by fortification of access controls.
“We have increased the capacity of our Armed Squad Personnel through specialized training and deployment of high caliber weapons.
“We have up scaled our use of technology for security, with the improvement of the Correctional Information Management System for inmates’ biometric capturing to cover more formations.
“In like manner, a Situation Room has been established at the National Headquarters to enable real-time monitoring of Custodial Centres in phases.
“Similarly, we have continued to improve collaboration with sister security agencies at strategic, tactical and operational levels,’’ Nababa said.