Legal Nigeria

Jailbreaks: Custodial centres need urgent rehabilitation, reforms, says expert

An Abuja-based security expert, Dr Yusuf Suberu has called for urgent reforms to decongest the custodial centres in Nigeria.

Suberu made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Tuesday in Abuja.

He said that the steps if taken would forestall incidences of jailbreaks in the country and also ensure the decongestion of custodial centres.

NAN reports that no fewer than 119 inmates escaped from the Suleja Medium Security Centre of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) following a rainstorm that damaged the facility on last Wednesday.

NAN also reports that 14 inmates have been recaptured by security operatives, while 105 are still at large.

The Suleja custodian centre which was built in 1914 during the colonial era to accommodate a maximum of 250 inmates is said to have a holding of nearly 500 inmates at the time of the incident, with a daily feeding allowance of N750.

The expert maintained that the correctional center was set up to serve as a rehabilitation centre for inmates adding that it deserved adequate attention.

Suberu, who is also the Squadron Leader of the Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO) mayors of the federation, stressed the need to relocate custodial centres, so as to create adequate accommodation for inmates.

He noted that according to the federal government data, there are 244 custodial centres in the country with 80,507 inmates as of April 29.

”The centres are overcrowded with convicted inmates at 25,033 and Awaiting Trial Inmates (ATIs) at 55,474.

”Some of these custodial centers have old structures and were built years ago, with a minimal capacity.

”But as time progresses, the number of criminal cases increase, and so, the center cannot house the same number of inmates.’

”It therefore follows that there is a need for adequate planning by the government on ways to rehabilitate the correctional system and to improve its standard.

”There is also the need to relocate custodial centers so as to cater for new development especially in terms of the growing population of inmates,” he said.

Suberu stressed the need for the NCoS to be well funded, and adequate facilities provided to ensure that the facility served its purpose of reforming inmates.

He also urged magistrates to embark on routine visits to the custodial centers and conduct summary trials for inmates charged with simple offences.

According to him, modernisation of the custodial center will take care of security lapses too.

Some of the facilities, he said, were constructed before the Second World War.

”You find that in a custodial centre with a capacity of 500 inmates, there are about 1500, and out of this number about 97 per cent are awaiting trial.

”Therefore, if we must forestall jailbreaks, there must be a decongestion of the custodial centers. The Magistrates should also visit the centre weekly and conduct summary trials.

”This is because some of these ATIs, might have actually served more than the term they would have served if convicted”.

Suberu further called for the reformation of existing structural design of the correctional facilities; with a view to enable inmates have access to better living standards.

Source: NAN