The issue of jail breaks and custody center administration has been a long talk among the public in the country following the security breach at Kuje Maximum Custodial Centre in July 2022. Among the major issues raising concern about the prison administration is the deteriorated custody structure, high number of awaiting trial inmates, congestion and poor care and treatment of inmates and other related matters. Continuous observation of the poor prison administration has led to increasing arguments for the protection of prisoners and improvement of custodial facilities in the country.
Sequel to this, the Federal Government has implemented comprehensive changes and reforms like the modernisation of custodial centres to ensure the reformation and rehabilitation of inmates. Despite the government action, stakeholders have urged for a fundamental transformation of the entire system structure to ensure efficient and maximum protection of custodial centres, put an end to jail breaks within the country and see that escaped prison inmates are recaptured in due time. The Kuje jail break that happened in July depicts the level of security dereliction and leniency at which custodial centres were being managed in the country. Considering that nothing was done to strengthen the facility despite the high number of terrorists under detention in the facility and intelligence report of impending attack.
Gov’t introduced command and control room for real time monitoring.
It was confirmed by the officials that 64 Boko Haram terrorists detained in the facility were among the 879 inmates that escaped. The incident makes Kuje the ninth successful jailbreak in Nigeria since 2015. However, Minister of Interior, Mr Rauf Aregbesola assured that the government had taken effective measures to strengthen custodial centres security to prevent all threats from within and outside the facility. He noted that the government would upgrade preparation by instituting military bases, police, and other armed agencies stations around all custodial facilities. Thus, he gave a “shoot to kill” directive to the officers of the Nigeria Correctional Service on whoever tried to lay an attack on the centers as he declared custodial centres as red zones.
The minister emphasised that custodial centres are “total embodiment of the authority of the Nigerian state to guarantee the security of the people“, as such must be protected at all costs. Also, the government has introduced a command and control room for real time monitoring of specific custodial centres across the country. He said Inmates can be monitored without any violation of their rights. With this, jailbreaks and riots can be avoided or nipped in the bud. The government has also moved to address the problem of congestion at custodial centres as it builds modern prison villages with combined capacity to accommodate 9,000 inmates. The facilities are being constructed at Karshi in the FCT, Janguza in Kano and Bori in Rivers, he added.
Nigeria would have custodial villages that can accommodate 9,000 inmates.
Aregbesola the incumbent administration decided to have special facilities in which six of such facilities were proposed at the beginning as it assumed the position. He noted that the most fascinating about the facilities is that they are gigantic ones, also called custodial village facilities and each facility can accommodate 3,000 inmates. Aregbesola argues that it is unprecedented in Africa, because there is no country with such a huge facility in the whole Africa continent, including South Africa. He disclosed that while one of the facilities is completed;the one at Janguza in Kano, three are close to completion. The facility in Karshi, FCT is 75 percent completed while that of Bori in Rivers is about 55 .
According to the minister, the three other mega custodial centres in Ilesha, Umuahia, and another in the Northeast are at different stages of take-off. Meaning that Nigeria would now have custodial villages that could accommodate 9,000 inmates, each with 3000 capacity. The Controller General of Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS), Mr. Haliru Nababa affirms that there has been unprecedented improvements in prison administration in the country. He said the service has enjoyed a generous increase in budgetary allocation over the last few years, enabling salient interventions, improvement and landmark achievements.
Congestion needs to improve within correctional institutions.
Furthermore, Nababa stressed the significant importance of the projects to the actualisation of NCoS core mandates. He said the service would continue to compete with its contemporaries across the globe. Conversely, An Abuja-based human rights lawyer, Joel Omoyeni, called on federal and state governments to decongest correctional centres in order to reduce threats of jail breaks. He emphasized that it is imperative for the government to decongest custody facilities noting that it is a preventive measure that should be done now.
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