Insecurity in Nigeria has taken a horrifying dimension, in fact beyond what it was in the late 90’s and early 2000 when security challenges bothered merely on house burglary, pocket or bag-snatching at busy street corners, robbery with light weapons, cultism or cult activities, especially at night.
We also experienced car snatching at gun point, amongst other unwholesome activities such as pockets of inter-tribal or communal conflicts (e.g Modakeke and Ife), which were particularly over land boundaries, fishing streams or farmlands, among other unwholesome activities and criminality.
Over time, however, these criminals and criminality have developed into hostage takings, killings, kidnapping of individuals and school children for ransom, ritual purposes, armed robberies with sophisticated weapons such as grenades and use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) amongst others.
It is pertinent to understand that the various groups like ISWAP, Boko Haram, killer Fulani herdsmen, bandits and other heavily arm-bearing groups were not suddenly brought upon the country; their initial or starting activities were treated with kid gloves, which accounted for their activities developing into the various killer monsters the nation is feeding today. The activities of these groups over the past few years have metamorphosed from mere criminality into serious national and international security concerns.
The recent kidnapping and abduction of private individuals, civil servants, traditional rulers and students have put the country in bad light among the comity of nations. Some of the most recent abductions and kidnappings include the abduction of over 200 female students at Chibok in 2014, abduction of Government Girls Science and Technical College in Yobe state resulting in the death of 5 students in February 2018, abduction of secondary school students in Kankara, Katsina state, abduction of students, teachers and workers of Government Secondary School Kagara, Niger State in February 2021.
Others include the abduction of 39 students of Federal Government College of Forestry Mechanization. Afaka, Kaduna State, abduction of pupils of Islamic school in Tegina, Niger state, abduction of students of Federal Government College, Birnin-Yauri, Kebbi state, abduction of babies, female nurses and security guards at the residential quarters of National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Center (NTLO) Kano state, the abduction of students of Bethel Baptist School, Kaduna state and the recent attack at the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna state. The list seems endless.
The incidences of jail or prison break are novel in Nigeria though there have been occurrences of an inmate or two escaping from the holding facility or whenever they are brought out of the prison yard.
The Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) urgently needs endemic steps which may include the followings to create security and protection of officers, facilities, inmates.
Firstly, the construction and establishment of maximum and medium custodian centres within the cosmopolitan and other densely populated regions or districts should be discouraged.
It is a fact that the Nigerian population of over 240 million is made up of sixty to sixty-five percent of active age, (16-55) who most times reside in towns or busy cities. The pressure on these youths in addition to the down-turn economic realities creates an easily inflammable or restive attitude, which most times occasions high crime rates.
The restiveness of these youths could be capitalised upon by any unscrupulous group to attack those holding facilities in such locations for the promise of pittance. It is suggested and totally imperative that Medium and Maximum custodian centers warehousing thousands of inmates; whether awaiting trials or serving jail term, be sited in rural or less populated regions, district or local government areas to hide it from the easy prying eyes of unpopular groups, bandits etc.
Secondly, there should be a narrative which should include the state government and local government authority involvement in the profiling of special or classic criminals held in the facility within their various domains. When the state executive and legislature, the local government authority are put in the known or are aware of the capacity of the presence of criminals or crime kingpin held in their domain could stand a chance to influence or cause danger, they will take pre- active steps to avoid any mayhem it could cause.
There should be a close-knitted involvement of the Chief Judge of the state, chief security officer of the state, the speaker of the House of Assembly, the local government chairman and the Nigerian Correctional Service authorities in engaging in serious profiling, documentation, identification and marking of criminals and suspects held in their domains.
There is also the urgent need to construct custodian centers in a most suitable of meeting World standards to avoid been easily break-in into. This can be done by creating a buffer zone of at least two meters between the high wall of Custodian facility and the external fence warehousing the facility, the buffer zone is to be manned by fully armed officers of the correctional services armed squad who should be kinetically hostile to any unauthorized entering into the buffer zone, it is automatic death sentence to be found in the buffer zone without permission or authority.
For further pre-cautionary measures, the Custodial centers should have the Twin Towers Jail or the Prison Guard Tower manned by armed squad with automatic rifles.
With Haliru Nababa mni at the helm of affairs as Controller General of Nigeria Correctional Service, attention should be focused on national security, inmates’ reformation and staff welfare.
Interestingly, the new Controller General is not new to the workings of the Correctional Service. CG Haliru Nababa joined the Nigerian Prisons Service, (NPS) as it was then, on August 13, 1990 as an Assistant Superintendent of Prisons. He rose through the ranks and was promoted to the rank of Assistant Controller General of Corrections on January 1, 2018.
On August 26, 2020, he was appointed as Deputy Controller General of Corrections, covering duties in the Directorate of Finance and Accounts. Until his new appointment, CG Nababa was the Head of the Directorate of Finance and Accounts.
What is required at the moment therefore is adequate budgetary allocation to the NCoS to enable it rightly address the myriads of challenges confronting the country at the moment. This is against the background of issues involving repentance by criminals, including terrorists among them.
Osemwengie is Abuja-based legal practitioner and social analyst.