The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, on Monday, 17 January, 2022 charged correctional officers to protect the integrity of the correctional facilities in the country by using maximum force to deter anyone who attempts to attack any correctional centre in the country.
The Minister gave this order while inspecting the facility at the Agodi Custodial Centre, Ibadan.
He said the officers must make it impossible to anyone to penetrate the facility because it is a red zone.
Aregbesola said any attack on any correctional centre is an attack on the Nigerian state and such must never be allowed again.
The Minister said any attempt to attack correctional centres should be a suicide attempt and perpetrators must not be allowed to live to tell the story.
He said, “The most important thing is the security impregnability of this facility. Make this facility impregnable.
“It is a red zone, a dangerous zone. Whoever attempts to breach the security here is already dead. He must not live to tell the story. Other people will tell his or her story.
“Any effort to breach our facility is not acceptable. Don’t shoot to injure, shoot to kill. Don’t shoot to disable, shoot to kill.
“This facility is a total embodiment of the authority of the Nigerian state to guarantee the security of the people”
The Minister also commended the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) for keeping Covid-19 out of the facilitiesnationwide, a feat recorded only in Nigeria where not a single case of infection was recorded and promised to look into the welfare of the officers. “We will do our best regarding your welfare to ensure effective service.
“I must commend your work for not recording any case of COVID-19 in your facility.
“But most importantly, you must be effective in preventing the penetration of this facility. You must have the capacity to repel viciously any attempt to penetrate this facility.”
Aregbesola said the Federal Government was working on a number of measures to decongest custodial centres in the country.
He said the facilities needed to be decongested for the correctional centres to achieve their objectives of reforming those being held there. He also lamented the huge cost of feeding the inmates, saying state governments also needed to cooperate with the Federal Government on the efforts to decongest the facilities.
The Minister said, “There are inmates who are there because of their inability to pay their fines. We are compiling the list of such inmates and I will use the status of my office to appeal to willing and able Nigerians to raise the fines to free them (inmates).
“There are other inmates who are have spent far beyond the limits of their sentences should they be found guilty of the offences against them. The total number of convicts at Agodi is less than 400 and we have 1001 inmates there, it means about two thirds of the inmates are awaiting trial.
“If there are those who have spent more than the maximum sentence should they be found guilty, why should they still be kept there? But I am not a judicial officer, I am not a judge. If somebody who should be jailed for maximum of one year is being kept for four years or more, then we are violating their rights.
“Also, to feed these inmates is expensive. The cost to government is very high. You will not believe the cost of feeding them for a year. We are equally working with the Presidential Task Force on Prison Decongestion to free the inmates. We are also working on other means.
“Less than 15 per cent of them are Federal offenders, majority of them are state offenders and we are working with State Governments and for that reason, we need the cooperation of the state government under whose jurisdiction three quarters of our inmates are, to accelerate their trials, conclude the cases and having them spend the years they should spend there or get them out.
“They should also activate their own prerogative of mercy committee to decongest the facilities. It is when the facilities are decongested that live can be restored to them. When you have congestion, several other factors will come in.
“This centre (new Olomi Maximum Custodial Centre, Ibadan)has been partly completed since about four or five years ago and it can take 800 inmates. I have directed authorities of the correctional service to make this place operational by the end of next month. They will need the support of other security agencies, especially the police and the army.
“We will have the heads of those agencies to have their stations here to reinforce the security. We will complete this place totally before the end of this year.”
The minister also commended the officers and men of the Agodi Custodial Centre for making the facility very clean despite that the place is congested.
He said, “I was at Agodi and I commend very highly the sense of commitment to duty of the officer and men. What is remarkable is the hygiene and cleanliness within the facility, although it carries inmates three times its designed capacity. It was designed to take about 400 but we have 1001 inmates there now. Even despite that, you will see high level general environmental hygiene and cleanliness. We didn’t get press men into the facility because it’s a security zone.
“As well kept as it is, we need to plant green, brilliant and attractive flowers. When you have taken freedom from people, you should give them some things. Their sense of appreciating beauty should be there. Within the limit of our capacity, we want to make inmates of our facilities human. I have discussed that with the CG.”
Aregbesola also restated that those who escaped from Abolongo Custodial Centre in Oyo town would be brought back dead or alive.
He said, “They have to live under the earth to escape our surveillance system. They can only run, but they cannot hide. I am assuring you that we are on their trail and I can assure you that we will pursue them to the end of the earth.”