By Solomon Isa Njuwa
The word “Welfare” in the dictionary means happiness, security/safety and well-being in any respect. If this is the case, it could therefore be taken that welfare will certainly make better meaning to the jailed and perhaps their jailer.
It is no longer news that prisons in Nigeria have suffered several years of neglect in virtually all facets, thus creating huge infrastructural and logistic gaps.
To exacerbate the attendant pairs and anguish, the prisons are daily populated with pre-trial detainees causing unacceptable level of overcrowding.
Coming from this background, the intervention in terms of infrastructural development, logistics support, Medicare and sundry basic need of inmates and prisons personnel by the present administration are good signs that the seemingly intractable problems plaguing the system are surmountable after all, perhaps all it requires is the political will to say “yes, it is possible”.
Prisons are reformation institutions established by government for offenders who are in conflict with the law.
The prison system in Nigeria modeled after the British style may have at best copied administration and support methods in letter rather than in practice because the attention given by the government is hardly in consonance with the British system.
Rightly or wrongly the prison has been accused of failing to meet its mandate as required by law.
The claim is that the prison subject prisoners to horrible and degrading conditions, rendering inmates physically and psychologically damaged in an uncaring environment.
Minister of Interior, Lt Gen Abdulrahman B. Dambazau recently at the kick-off of the distribution of drugs for inmates nationwide re-echoed the major challenges confronting the Nigerian Prisons Service.
The Controller General of Prisons, Ja’afaru Ahmed also spoke of myriad of problems facing the prisons including lack of motivation on the part of personnel and problems of overcrowding of inmates thus further corroborating the assertion of long abandonment of the system.
Taking stock of developments in the past 18 months of Ja’afaru Ahmed’s stewardship as the Controller-General of Prisons however, a clear sense of judgment would say things are changing for the better.
The incessant jail breaks and escapes which were hitherto the rule rather than exception are now things of the past.
The promotion of over 11,000 officers and men within one year of this administration is another milestone in the history of Nigerian Prisons Service.
For the first time in the history of the service, such a high number of personnel were promoted across board; including staff stagnated in a rank for over 10 years.
To maintain standards and ensure professionalism in the service, all the different training institutions are kept busy holding different training programmes for the personnel.
This is in addition to the recent report on media on officers and men of the service on oversee courses in the United States of America.
On the part of prisons inmates, new operational vehicles to facilitate inmates’ transportation to and from court were procured and distributed.
Modern cell blocks are being constructed to ease decongestion and replace the old/mud structures built over years ago.
Medicare and aftercare materials have also been provided for inmates’ health needs and rehabilitation respectively.
The constitution of a Ration Monitoring Team by the CGP is another positive development to oversee inmates’ food in term of its quality and quantity.
Furthermore, it is interesting to note that Prisons inmates now have better opportunity for their educational pursuits while serving jail terms.
The Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Abdalla Adamu on March 2017 during their 53rd Meeting and 30th Anniversary of the Committee of Deans of Post-Graduate School (CDPGS) in Nigerian University revealed that National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) has commenced enrollment of inmates who are willing and qualified to pursue PhD programme in prisons.
Indeed the presence of NOUN centres in various formations of the country is today one of the best thing that has happened to inmates.
There are six NOUN centres in the following prison formations namely: Enugu, Port Harcourt, Kirikiri, Gombe, Kuje and National Headquarters Abuja to attend to both inmates and staff members in that regards.
Meanwhile, recently the prisons through the Ministry of Interior procured and distributed drugs worth millions of Naira to all prison formations.
The present efforts geared towards safe and humane custody of inmates should be given more support and attention not only by the government but well-meaning Nigerians.
It is only in doing this that we can guarantee the type of prison we dream for Nigeria.
Solomon wrote from Abuja.
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