BY OLUSHOLA BELLO, Lagos
Minister of interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has disclosed that the federal government has given approval for the construction of 3,000 capacity custodian centers across the country in the six geo-political zones to tackle the scourge of overcrowded correctional centers.
The minister made this disclosure to members of the Order of the Knights of St. Mulumba (Nigeria), the Lagos Metropolitan Council and other participants at the one-day Policy Advocacy Conference on Decongestion of Correctional Centers held to mark the 60th anniversary of the Council in Lagos.
Aregbesola said the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCOS) mandate is to rehabilitate and reintegrate inmates back into society and regretted that the service has no power to reject inmates or release them at will to determine their length of stay only until after adjudication through the judicial system.
He stated that the service has been doing all possible and collaborating with bodies such as St. Mulumba on the ways to decongest the center.
The minister who was represented by his Special Adviser on Nigeria Correctional Services, Suleiman Tala, stated that the NCOS has been carrying out its core mandate religiously especially in the area of rehabilitation, saying some 3,000 inmates are currently undergoing different degrees programmes with the National Open University while 50 others are studying various programmes for National Certificate of Education.
He applauded the NCOS for successfully containing COVID-19 considering the high risk potential of the centers.
He also commended the Order of the Knight of St. Mulumba for the well thought out conference, urging civil society and faith-based organisations to emulate them and play critical roles in rendering services to inmates of the NCOS through offering pro Bono cases, and paying fees for less offenders.
Also speaking, the Inspector General of Police, Alkali Baba Usman, represented by the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, Hakeem Odumosu, noted that some of the factors influencing congestion in Correctional Centres in Nigeria, include increase in crime rate, changing dimensions and patterns of crime, scientific nature of crime, effects of social dislocation and overburdened criminal justice system among others.