The Nigerian Correctional Service is one institution that rarely gets mentioned in the news or even spoken about generally except when there is a jail break or it is playing host to one politician or the other for the very short period of time that he/she has to remain in custody until he/she is pardoned by the President or by some state Governor.
It is an institution we all somehow take for granted principally because we do not appreciate the very important service being undertaken on our behalf by the officers and men of the Nigerian Correctional Service.
For the purpose of perspective, the Nigerian Correctional Service, which until recently was referred to as the Nigerian Prison Service is that institution that houses persons convicted of criminal offences and sentenced to jail terms, those convicted of capital offences waiting for the execution of the sentence of death passed on them to be executed and unfortunately the very large number of those awaiting trial who are remanded to our various custodial centers pending the determination of the cases filed against them.
As at today the 16th of April 2023, the Statistics as made available by the Nigerian Correctional Service on its official website suggests that there are 74, 818 inmates in the several custodial centers across Nigeria out of which number 73, 105 are males while 1713 are females.
The statistics also reveal that of this figure, only 22, 977 are convicts while 51, 841are awaiting trial.
While the facts as stated above should be a source of concern to all of us, it is not the point of my little intervention this morning.
The point of my intervention this morning is as it affects the question of welfare, emoluments, security, training and general preparedness (mentally and physically) of the Staff of the Nigerian Correctional Service to undertake the all-important responsibilities we saddle them with when we put them in close proximity with those whom we often believe may be the worst of the worst that our system has either created, enable or bred.
I am privileged because of my profession which brings me in close proximity to not only the Correctional Centers and some inmates in those centers but also to staff of the said Centres and I can tell you that there is the need for some quick intervention in our prison/correctional services particularly as it affects the question of welfare of staff.
Not too long ago, a number of correctional facilities were broken into across the country with the incidence in Jos being one of the most talked about, probably because of the live images that we saw circulating on social media, which images have clearly shown us that we may have a long way to go in our efforts geared at securing our correctional facilities across the country.
One thing that became glaring to me after my personal interface with a number of staff of the correctional service is that while the staff of the service may well be equipped in terms of facilities and equipment to secure our correctional facilities, they are not properly motivated to do so.
I am told that some kind of harmonization of the ranks of the staff of the correctional service with that of the officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force was carried out about a year ago but to this day the salaries of the staff of the Correctional Service continue to remain in disharmony with their opposite numbers in the police.
I am told that while monies are taken out of salaries of staff of the Service every month in the name of one welfare scheme or the other, it takes a lot of follow up to ensure that such funds are deployed to assist members of staff when matters arise wherein you would expect that prompt action ought to be taken for the benefit of staff.
I am also informed that in a lot of cases if a member of staff dies or retires while living in the barracks his family, with him in tow (in instances of retirement) are almost immediately bundled out of the quarters so that some other staff can take possession of the quarters.
I have also gathered that the service hardly ever organizes any kind of training or re-training for its staff.
In fact one staff with whom I spoke informed me that in the over 12 years since he was employed by the service he only attended one training exercise organized by the service, and this, at his own cost.
What makes the matter worse is that a few months after the training, he and his colleagues who attended the training were requested to submit their account numbers for some meagre reimbursement in the sum of N10, 000 which does not even scratch the surface in terms of the expenses incurred in participating in the training. It is now over 10 years after and the N10, 000 is still trekking from where it was meant to have been disbursed into the gentleman’s account.
The long and short of this matter is simply that we are not properly motivating the staff of the correctional services in Nigeria to do their job with the kind of dedication that they need to put into it.
You might say that this matter does not concern you. You are wrong.
Imagine we have 5 or six breakouts from our prisons across the country because of the fact that the staff of our correctional services become laid back in response to the shabby treatment they seem to be getting from their employers.
Imagine that these breakout unleash on us the so many convicted armed robbers, kidnappers and murderers that are currently securely locked up in the system.
Then imagine that they go back to their ‘trades’ with a vengeance and this time better equipped by reason of hindsight to ensure that they never get back into the justice system.
I think it is high time that the powers that be took another look at the Correctional Service in Nigeria with a view to updating and upgrading the welfare of the many men and women of the service who give their all and in some cases make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that you and I are protected from the worst of the worst of us by keeping them bound within the walls of the facilities with respect to which we call on these men and women to secure.