The Chief Judge of the High Court, Federal Capital Territory and Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion, Hon. Justice Ishaq Bello has called for more support and encouragement on skill acquisition for inmates in Correctional Centres across the country.
He made this known at the launch of the upgraded skill acquisition programme and jail delivery at the new Custodial at Keffi (new) Correctional Center, on Monday December 2nd, 2019 Keffi, Nasarawa state.
Justice Bello said that the upgraded skill acquisition project at the new Custodial Centre in Keffi, Nasarawa state, is to ensure proper rehabilitation, re-orientation and re-integration of inmates into the society upon their release.
The launch was organised by the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reforms, Federal Ministry of Justice and the Federal Ministry of Interior.
According to him, the launching of the project which were in stages, is one of the efforts to decongest the Nigeria Correctional Service. He explained that the skill acquisition projects embarked upon by the government would help equip inmates for life after serving their sentence and shift their focus from crimes and criminality.
The FCT Chief Judge further explained that the skill acquisition programme came as a result of demonstration of some of their findings and situational assessments and they notice the lapses which should be filled.
“it’s a positive factor exposing them to skill acquisition which can occupy their minds and add to the Nigerian society at large; carpentry, computer software etc, they will go back into crimes without the skills. It is a way of raising fund for them and I hope the Federal Ministry of Interior be able to replicate this’’, He explained further.
He stated that there were review of cases of inmates that had been convicted of minor offences with the option of fines and were unable to pay.
To this effect, the Committee led by its Chairman, Honourable Justice Ishaq Bello released a total number of Forty-one Inmates; 39 males and 2 females from the Keffi (New) Correctional Centre, Nasarawa State with option of fines paid by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, FCT Minister and some NGO’S.
Hon. Justice Bello emphasised that the released inmates will have a permanent data base, permanent record, photographs which will help to get them any time.
He urged security operatives to be civil in their duties by ensuring that suspects are not detained beyond the statutory period as prescribed by the law.
The Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (HAGF) Abubakar Malami, SAN in his goodwill message said the mandates of the committee are as follows; to review the cases of inmates with special cases and carry out on the spot assessment of the prisons condition; cases of inmates convicted of minor offences with the option of fines with additional support from the relevant authorities and amongst others.
The HAGF, represented by Deputy-Director in the Ministry, Mrs. Jane Awanen, explained that it has already become starkly clear from deliberations during the previous custodial visits that as a Nation, they cannot continue to overlook the need for non-custodial measures, the measures including community service orders and probation, are clearly provided for in the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
Malami noted that the committee has visited 34 Correctional Centres in 16 States of the Federation adding that he looks forward to learn more through these visits to enhance the final recommendations of the committee towards more lasting solutions to custodial congestion.
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, represented by the Assistant Controller General, Peter Perigo explained that it’s pertinent to note that, the Act couldn’t have come at a better time considering the fact that inmates’ welfare and rehabilitation have become a global phenomenon, that Correctional Services across the globe through the instrumentality of good legislations are tilting towards improving and upgrading the lives of their citizens who have ran afoul of their laws.
He said, “Today’s event to me signifies the strong synergy existing within my Ministry, Federal Ministry of Justice and the Presidential Committee on Correctional Reforms and Decongestion to ensure that the policies and programmes of President Muhammadu are achieved in such a manner that an enduring legacy in the Criminal Justice System will be felt by this generation and posterity”.
In his goodwill message the Chief Judge of Nasarawa State, Honourable Justice Umaru Diko urged the HAGF and the Ministry of Interior to replicate the project in all the 774 Local Government Areas, noting that there is need to engage the youths in order to reduce the level of criminality in Nigeria.
Secretary to the Committee, Mrs. Leticia Ayoola–Daniels in her opening remarks, said the centre is not only for convicts but inmates awaiting trial noting that while they are awaiting trial, they should gain skill acquisition and that is why the Federal Ministry of Justice has provided equipment for them.
Controller General of Keffi Correctional Centre, Emmanuel Okoro in his vote of thanks appealed to the Committee to ensure that the skill acquisition programme is self-sustained adding that all stakeholders should be seen working towards one direction for the success of the programme.