By Sodiq Yusuf
THE Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, on Friday reiterated the resolve of the Federal Government to strengthen internal security of the country through initiatives that will reposition the agencies for better performance.
This, he said, is imbued in the multifarious infrastructural projects and developmental initiatives to boost the morale of officers and in turn, further guaranteeing the safety of the lives and property of Nigerians.
Aregbesola stated this in Osogbo at the official commissioning of the headquarters of the Nigeria Correctional Service, Osun Command.
The minister noted that efforts will be geared towards improving the situation of the custodial centres, while introducing initiatives that will help boost productivity and improve the quality of the service.
He also sought the collaboration of state governments in providing the infrastructure to house more inmates and assist in the decongestion efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to address the challenges facing the NCS.
Aregbesola said: “The challenges of safe and effective custody at the custodial centres come therefore from the awaiting trial inmates, given their numerical strength. This fact greatly limits our capacity for corrections, since awaiting trial inmates being suspects, can only be accommodated and not reformed. Reformation comes after conviction and not before.
“This is the reality of the management of inmates that must be squarely registered in the minds of the Nigerian public for a better appreciation of the service and its limitations at the rehabilitation, reformation and reintegration of convicts and a reduction in recidivism.
“The government is building a 3,000 high-capacity custodial centre in each of Karchi, Abuja FCT, Kano, Kano State and Bori in Rivers State. Each of these high-capacity facilities will have courts for the trial of the inmates. The plan is to extend it to the six geo-political zones in the country. The Kano project is nearing completion. When these projects are completed, they will ease congestion considerably and enhance the capacity to manage our facilities for corrections.
“We are also working on instituting non-custodial sentencing in form of suspended sentence, community service and home sentence for first offenders and light crimes.”
He added: “However, we will need the cooperation of state governments in addressing this challenge. The overwhelming majority of offenders are state offenders being tried by their respective state governments.
“The state governments can therefore do three things: The first is to accelerate the wheel of justice. A lot of inmates have been in custody for a period longer than the maximum sentence their alleged offences carry. This fundamentally is a miscarriage of justice.
“So many factors are responsible for this, including but not limited to tardy investigations and prosecutions, personnel shortage in courts, movement of suspects to court, health challenges for the suspects and deliberate delay tactics or sheer incompetence by counsels on both sides, leading to unending adjournments and prolonged stay in custody.
“But the bottom-line is that a delayed justice is a denied justice. There should be a deliberate judicial action that will lead to acceleration of trials with strict deadlines set for the conclusion of investigations, trials and delivering of judgments in all cases, as we see and admire in other especially developed countries where trials and judgments are wrapped up in one week.
“A lot of people commit crimes by sneering at our judicial system, in the belief that they would frustrate and weary the prosecution. An end should come to such shenanigans. This reform should also include the introduction of the parole system that subject to good behaviour and evidence of reformation, a convict can be released before the completion of the original sentence.”
He commended the Nigeria Correctional Service for realising its mandate of keeping convicts and awaiting trial suspects in safe and legal custody and reforming convicts to be better citizens.
In his remarks, Governor, State of Osun, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola, urged the Nigeria Correctional Service to, in addition to the quality of the infrastructure provided by the government, work tirelessly in offering the best of service to the nation.
Oyetola, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Prince Wole Oyebamiji, assured the NCS of the support of the State Government in ensuring the safety of the infrastructure as well as other initiatives to back the success of the service.
In his goodwill message, Senate Spokesperson and Senator representing Osun Central Senatorial District, Dr. Ajibola Basiru, lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for his determination to ensure that the internal security of the country is beefed up and strengthened.
Basiru commended the leadership of Aregbesola in the Ministry of Interior, which he said has birthed unprecedented reforms in the history of the agencies under his watch.
Speaker, State of Osun House of Assembly, Hon. Timothy Owoeye, corroborated Basiru’s submission, saying that the nation is lucky to have a personality of the Minister in charge of the internal security of the country.
Earlier in his remarks, the Controller-General of the NCS, Haliru Nababa, commended President Buhari for taking passionate interest in the NCS, which is evident in the numerous interventions that has helped to overcome the numerous of challenges facing the agency.
Nababa maintained that the service will not relent in its mandate of making sure that inmates in various correctional centres across the country are reformed to be better members of the Nigerian state.