LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Perspectives On Nigeria Correctional Service And Federal Fire Service

There have been positive developments in Nigeria Correctional Service and Federal Fire Service since September 2019 when Rauf Aregbesola took over as Minister of Interior. As part of measures to decongest the Custodial Centres nationwide in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the dangers posed to the Centres, the Ministry of Interior, the Presidential Committee on…”
Yusuf
August 10, 2020 2:21 pm

There have been positive developments in Nigeria Correctional Service and Federal Fire Service since September 2019 when Rauf Aregbesola took over as Minister of Interior. As part of measures to decongest the Custodial Centres nationwide in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the dangers posed to the Centres, the Ministry of Interior, the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion, (PCCSRD) – formerly, (Presidential Committee on Prison Reform and Decongestion), in collaboration with the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy, State Executives and other relevant stakeholders, have been able to further decongestion of the Correctional Centres. In all, about 7,813 inmates have been released. Out of this figure, 3,789 inmates were released during the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

Nigeria Correctional Service in this year 2020 has commissioned for use, newly procured operational vehicles. A total of 59 operational vehicles were commissioned by the Minister of Interior, comprising 36 mini Green Maria, 18 Escort Duty Vehicle and 5 Customized Green Maria Buses. The administration of President Buhari GCFR, since 2015 has ushered an unprecedented development into the country and this has had a backwash effect, not just on the Ministry of Interior, but the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) in particular.

The Service was noticeably challenged in the area of logistics, which affected its capacity to deliver on its statutory responsibility of conveying inmates to courts as and when due. This problem, no doubt, impacted negatively on the inmates’ access to justice as well as the administration of criminal justice in the country.

Accordingly, in line with Mr. President’s commitment to good governance and provision of credible leadership for all Nigerian citizens, including those behind bars, the administration wasted no time in taking steps to redeem the situation.

Hence, the resolve to release funds for the procurement of vehicles on an annual basis since 2015, with a view to bridging the missing gap.

* So far, 451 operational vehicles have been purchased and commissioned for use in Nigeria.

Today, Rauf Aregbesola has commissioned 10 Ultra-Modern Fire Service Trucks worth N1.8bn into the service of the Federal Fire Service (@FedFireng).

It may interest you to know that in line with the National Response Strategy, @FedFireng responded to 2,615 Fire Calls, saved 724 lives and assets worth N1.629 trillion between June and October 2019 across the country. The delivery of these new trucks is indeed further testimony of the determination of President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR to repositioning the Federal Fire Service.

Again, when Rauf Aregbesola came on board last year 2019, he was able to access fund and took delivery of more fire trucks and he had to expand their services and instead of having six zones, he created six additional zones with the primary aim of reducing the distance required to cover to improve on emergency response-time because in managing disasters, time is key. It is heart-warming that the Federal Fire Service had 12 zones now, in addition to Abuja. In Abuja, fire service has up to 19 Fire Stations, in Lagos there are 11 Fire Stations. And in each of the six geo-political zones there are two, and each zone comprises two states.  Another problem facing not only Federal Fire Service is training and re-training. Federal Fire Service made proposal to the government and it got approval to establish Fire Service Training School in each of the six geo-political zones. So that of North-West has taken off in Katsina State.

Federal Fire Service has trained the first batch of both Federal and State Fire Men. The next would be South-West in Ilesa, from there; focus would shift to Maiduguri because there, temporary structures to be used as training schools have been provided. That is why training at those levels is being kick-started and with the coming of the incumbent administration, population in fire service has risen from 1,200 to 5,860 now. This means that there are almost 6,000 fire fighters in the country. So there are enough personnel to handle disasters when they come.

The Federal Fire Service (FFS) has acquired 10 modern fire-fighting trucks to improve its responses to cases of fire disasters across the country. The Federal Government also lauded the agency for saving about 724 lives and properties worth N1.629 trillion between June and October 2019 across the country.

Speaking while inaugurating the 10 newly acquired modern fire trucks in Abuja sometimes ago, Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, described the delivery of the new trucks as testimony of the determination of President Muhammadu Buhari to repositioning the Federal Fire Service. According to him, the new firefighting trucks and their deployment to the various new zonal offices would ensure a drop in incessant fire outbreaks in the country.

Aregbesola said the agency had continued to save lives and property through its prompt response to fire outbreaks in the country, even as he thanked the President for repositioning the service.

“The Federal Fire Service has experienced phenomenal transformation from a moribund department to a vibrant organisation equipped with modern firefighting equipment and committed personnel.

“In line with our national response strategy, we responded to 2,615 fire calls; saved 724 lives and assets worth N1.629 trillion between June and October 2019 across the country.

“With the deployment of the newly procured fire engines across the country to boost emergency response, FFS is now present in all the states of the federation and most responsive, saving lives and preventing humanitarian and economic disasters.

“Of the 65,000 inmate population, 72 per cent are said to be awaiting trial, while 28 per cent are convicted. Because of the way our constitution is crafted, prison is on the exclusive legislative list, under the control of the Federal Government. So state governments really don’t care and magistrates just keep sending people to prison and the Federal Government continues to pay; and for the Federal Government, nobody is really asking questions about how much is going into servicing the prisons.

’At least 3,000 Custodial Centers are under construction and in various stages of completion in the six geo-political zones of the country. It would assuage the problem of congestion to a large extent.

“Custodial Farm Centres have been reactivated round the country for large scale agricultural production in piggery, fishing, cattle rearing and poultry. Tractors and harvesters have been procured to facilitate the work, and contribute to food security in the country. Trust President Buhari, any opportunity to feed Nigerians, he utilizes.

“There’s rehabilitation program, aimed at reducing the rate of recidivism (that’s big vocabulary, which means going to jail again and again) by engaging inmates in both vocational and entrepreneurial initiatives. About 1,000 inmates were enrolled for the 2020 WAEC / NECO examinations, while the number of study centres of the National Open University of Nigeria has been increased to 10 across Custodial Centers”, the Minister concluded.

Inwalomhe Donald writes via [email protected]

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