In spite of the challenges, the Nigerian Correctional Service has done well, reckons Henry Udutchay

 The outgoing administration has generated divided opinions among Nigerians as regards performance and achievement in the last eight years. Many have scored the government high in some areas like infrastructure and security, while others have criticized it on poor economic policies, especially the recent Naira redesign policy and its impact on the common man before it was eventually reversed. On security of lives and properties, even though the government scored high in terms of reduction in cases of kidnapping and insurgency in the North East, which was curtailed through adequate funding of the Military and Police, some sections of the country still believe more could have been done. The need to do more in other areas, according to observers is why other security agencies were scrutinized to see where they are failing and what needs to be done to improve their performance. The Nigerian Correctional Service is one agency under the outgoing administration that attracted a lot of interest and scrutiny due to many issues that bedeviled it in the last couple of years, most notably the issues of jailbreak that occurred in some parts of the country, including that which happened close to the seat of power at Kuje Correctional Centre. It was an unfortunate event that led many to question the leadership of the Service and drew attention to its operations. Many social commentators and analysts alike went neck deep into the affairs of the agency but one thing remained constant; the leadership and management of the Nigerian Correctional Service under the leadership of Comptroller General Haliru Nababa has been satisfactory. The Comptroller General has led from the front from day one of his appointment and shown capacity of quality leadership in handling the affairs of the Correctional Centre. While speaking to newsmen recently on how the Service has managed to tackle the issue of jailbreak and ensure such does not happen again, the spokesman of the Nigerian Correctional Service, Abubakar Umar, stated that “the Kuje attack was an unfortunate one, which drew the ire of most Nigerians. It was an unfortunate incident. At the moment, we have deployed technology in Kuje, and we are monitoring every movement in that custodial Centre from a situation room recently commissioned by the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. So far, we have recaptured a good number of the escapees. We have deployed overt and covert measures to track down those still at large.” The initiative to equip the Correctional Centres all over the country with a 24hrs monitoring/surveillance room is a commendable one which is long overdue because the world is now driven by technology and it will tremendously improve the security of the Centres. In this day and age, issues of jailbreak and insecurity around the prisons should not be happening again. Speaking further on improvements and measures taken concerning security, Umar Abubakar also informed newsmen of the collaboration between the Correctional Service and other security agencies to provide adequate security for the Centres across the country. This is a welcome idea, that is important towards ensuring maximum security at the Correctional Centres, including the protection of lives and properties of all. This relationship among security agencies and Correctional Service will also help in sharing intelligence to tackle insecurity before it goes beyond control. A stitch in time they say, saves nine.

One issue of the Nigeria Prisons, now Nigerian Correctional Service, which has never ceased to be in the news is that of overcrowding and congestion, including issues that surrounds why this is so. Over the years there have been calls to look into decongestion of the prisons, and expedite actions concerning the many cases of awaiting trial, all to no fruitful outcome. However, in recent time, armed with the new Nigerian Correctional Service Act (2019), the current administration has been able to achieve some results. The introduction and implementation of non-custodial sanctions, such as Parole, Probation, Community Service and Suspended Sentence, etc., for minor offenders, are some of the measures introduced to fast track and mitigate congestion. It is believed that if this is fully put in practice and implemented, so much would be achieved because decongesting is at the forefront of any reforms in the Nigerian Correctional Service. Although there’s still work to be done, particularly to further decongest the Centres, tighten the security around all the Correctional Centres, intensify efforts to ensure that trials are concluded in record time, staff welfare and rehabilitation programs for the inmates in preparation for reinterpretation into the larger society, but the impact so far is already visible, even to the blind. This is why Comptroller General Nababa and his team deserve a pass mark for their performance. Nigerian Correctional Service is one of the standout agencies under the leadership and government of President Muhammadu Buhari through the quality discharge of duties and efficient delivery by its leadership. As a new dispensation begins after May 29th, it is hoped that the momentum is sustained, the good work continues, so that in no distant time, the vision and the mission of the current leadership of the Correctional Service would have come to fruition. The new government is expected to give all the necessary support to the Correctional Service so that the benchmark already set by the current administration and the leadership of the agency can reach its full potential. Because as they say, government and governance are continuous.

Chief Udutchay, a public affairs commentator, writes from Abuja

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