The Federal Government has asked state governors to establish their own correctional services and also build their custodial centres, saying that the law has empowered them to do so.
Speaking at a two-day conference on Decongestion and Corrections Administration in Abuja on Thursday, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, lamented that the congestion of custodial centres had taken a toll on the finances of the FG.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Shuaib Belgore, had disclosed that the FG earmarked N22.44bn to feed inmates in all the custodial centres across the country.
Belgore said 90 per cent of inmates in the custodial facilities were arrested and being prosecuted by state governments.
Speaking on Thursday, Aregbesola maintained that states must see to the accommodation and care of its offenders to save cost.
He said, “With the amendment to the constitution in this regard, states are now empowered to build correctional centres and facilities to house offenders, who are convicted and sentenced for committing state offences. Where states are unable to build custodial centres, it is believed that they can suggest ways to collaborate with the Federal Government in feeding and housing these state offenders.
“Overcrowding in the custodial centres has led to a huge revenue drain for the Federal Government, being the only party shouldering the responsibility of running and maintaining the custodial centres.
The Federal Government can’t bear this anymore. I am going to leave strict recomnendations to my successor on that law. We would rather use the money meant for feeding inmates to improve our facilities. “
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, said the congestion of custodial centres was responsible for jailbreaks.
He said, “Unnecessary congestion of prisons has led to jailbreaks and of course, overstretching the dilapidated custodial centres built 100 years ago.
“In order to enthrone a seamless dispensation of justice, the issue of congestion and reform has always occupied the front burner of discussion since the advent of this democratic dispensation and we have been waiting with bated breath to see the reform truly happen in our lifetime.”
Justice Ariwolola called on judges to interpret the law the right way as well as visit custodial centres with the aim of setting free inmates with minor offences and those being erroneously tried.
He said, “The law should be interpreted the way it should be and must be done with the fear of the almighty God. Our visit to the custodial centres should also be increased with a view to setting free those inmates with minor offences and those that ought not to be there in the first place.
“I passionately appeal to judicial officers and those directly and remotely connected to the administration of the justice chain in the country to distance themselves from primordial sentiment and disposition.”