One of the biggest issues in Nigeria’s national security is the deplorable state of the correctional facilities nationwide. Nigerian prisons have been very porous as they have become targets of violent invasion by gangs with sophisticated weapons that overpower facility security guards, destroy buildings, kill personnel on duty and free suspected or condemned criminals under custody.
For decades now, Nigerian prison facilities have been described as among the worst globally in terms of its dehumanising condition on account of congestion. The swelling number of inmates awaiting trials, including women and children, and their appalling condition made the former Chairman of the prison reform panel, Honourable Justice (Dr.) Ishaq Bello (Rtd), the former Chief Judge of the Federal High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), broke down in tears several times during his panel’s nationwide tour of the prison facilities.
The Controller General of Corrections (CGC), Haliru Nababa, was quoted by news men to have stated that, the Custodial Centres of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) have overshot their combined carrying capacity of 58,278 by over 16, 000.
According to him, “The current capacity of Nigerian Custodial Centres stands at 58,278 as against the population of over 75, 000 inmates. In recent times, the Nigerian Custodial Centres have experienced incessant attacks which were externally organised and executed”, he spoke at the Second Controller-General of Corrections’ Retreat in Sokoto last year.
In order to address this sordid situation, the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came up with a plan to build six world class Special Correctional Facilities at different locations in the country. Already, construction works have advanced in Rivers and Kano states as well as the FCT.
In the FCT, the Special Correctional Facility is located at Karshi, a border community between the FCT and Nasarawa state. When completed, according to the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the facility alone has the capacity to accommodate 3,000 inmates. He said the project, which is about 75 percent completed, was made possible through Mr. President’s Special Intervention Financing.
Evidently, this is a commendable visionary project that will serve as a national monument. For the first time, the country has taken a demonstrable effort towards addressing the malignant issues that bug our prison condition for decades.
However, from media reports and findings, this beautiful, huge legacy project of the Buhari administration in Karshi is, unfortunately, being dented by a compensation issue and agitation from those affected by the construction work. Stakeholders under the aegis of Mining Entrepreneurship Stakeholders (MES) have alleged that the land where the new correctional facility is built originally belongs to a multimillion naira quarry company, Nino Corporation Ltd, one of the third best quarry sites in Nigeria in terms of its multi-purposefulness, latest technology and computerised systems that will require expatriates to install and excavate.
The group stated that, “In the interest of national security, the company is willing to move to another location but it needs to be compensated to enable it excavate the heavy and delicate machinery to do so as the takeover of the company’s land has crippled the business of the company and has been thrown into huge debts”, it stated.
The NCoS has claimed that the FCTA allocated the plot to it, but relevant documents from the FCTA which admitted error in the allocation of the plot to NCoS, Federal Ministry of Mines and Solid Mineral Development which allocated the plot to Nino Corporation Ltd under Section 1 of the Land Use Act of 1978, Sections 44 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, as well as Section 1 of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act 2007, indicate that Nino Corporation Ltd’s ownership of the land is yet to be dislodged by any contrary evidence.
At a time when the federal government is promoting the policy of ease of doing business in the country, it should do everything possible to promote local business and not the other way round.
Indeed, the new ultramodern correctional facility at Karshi is a commendable legacy project that we believe will significantly address some of the malignant problems of congestion, security and decayed facilities in our correctional centres. All previous administrations had paid lip service to the problem and passed the bulk until now. From the speed and quality of the project, there is no doubt that it has received enormous political will from President Buhari as earlier admitted by Mr. Aregbesola. It should therefore not be tainted by a fair demand for compensation.
We urge the federal government through the minister of interior under whose supervision this laudable project is being executed to listen to the merits and appeals by the aggrieved company. Many Nigerians whose families fed from that company have lost their jobs as a result of the crippling effect of the correctional facility occupation of the company’s premises. Aregbesola should demonstrate statesmanship in this matter by inviting relevant parties, especially the quarry company, to the table and ensure a peaceful resolution by way of adequate compensation to the deserving party in the spirit of fairness and justice.