By Angeleen Nkwocha
The Comptroller-General, Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS), Mr Ja’afaru Ahmed, has decried the influx of trivial cases of awaiting-trial inmates in the nation’s prisons.
Ahmed raised the concern at a media briefing after a facility tour of Dukpa Prison Farm Centre in Gwagwalada, FCT, on Wednesday, to appraise how it has fared in 2017 in it’s stewardship of prisoners.
Represented by spokesman of the Service, Mr Francis Enobore, the NPS boss said although there was considerable reduction of in mates awaiting trials in Prisons facilities across the nation last year the arrest of minor offenders like street hawkers is making a travesty of the present decongestion effort.
“Although the population of inmates awaiting trial shows a considerable reduction, the rate of influx, if care is not taken, will sooner than later make a travesty of the present decongestion effort.
“Some state task forces arrest minor offenders like street hawkers and even those without proof of means of livelihood and send them to prison without a corresponding mechanism for further care and support.
“Managing this category of inmates has always been fraught with risks and myriad of problems even with the deployment of large toll of Service’s human and material resources,” Ahmed said.
He reiterated the NPS’ call for alternative custodial punishment through the domestication and implementation of the 2015 Administration of Criminal Justice Act by states.
As of Dec. 15, there were 48,527 awaiting-trial inmates nationwide, representing 66 per cent of a total prison population of 72,384, according to the NPS.
Ahmed also raised concern over the “rejection of ex-convicts by members of the society,” noting that it was pushing former inmates back into crime.
“It is sad that the sanctimonious attitude of some relations of offenders has remained a bane in ex-convict reintegration into the society.
“These offenders often return to crime due to continuous discrimination and unfriendly disposition of members of the society.
“We believe that ex-offenders that have served term in the prison have received due punishment for their wrongful behaviour and therefore should be forgiven so that the circle of criminality can be broken,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Dukpa Prison Farm Centre, operated by the FCT Command of the NPS, fetches the Federal Government N3 million annually, according to the officer in charge, Mr Benjamin Jatau.
Leading journalists on a tour of the facility, Jatau, an Assistant Controller of Prisons, said the revenue was generated from the sale of products of the farm.
He stated that the facility, established in 2006, was one of the 17 integrated farm centres run by the NPS nationwide.
According to him, the farm which sits on 27 hectres of land in Dukpa community, Gwagwalada Area Council, was designed to teach inmates vocation in poultry, cattle rearing, fishery and piggery.
“Besides, we grow some crops, mainly rice and maize, and then we have some subsidiary crops like soya beans.
“All these activities are done by the inmates under the supervision of staff and professionals.
“The aim of the farm is to affect the communities around on cropping techniques and modern livestock farming methods,” he said.
Jatau said the that every season the farm produced between 40 and 60 bags of maize, including Quality Protein Maize.
Ibrahim Abdullahi, one of the inmates held at the farm, said the facility was more of a school than a detention/labour centre.
Abdullahi, who is serving one-year jail term since July, state that he had learnt a lot of farming skills which he intended to put to use.