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Nigerian Correctional Service: The Journey so far, and matters arising

In July 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, that changed the Nigeria Prisons to the Nigeria Correctional Service. 

During this period, the service underwent series of reforms with a view to transforming the service from punitive colonial construction to effective correctional facility to ensure effective growth and development of the country’s penal system. 

Recall that, the Nigeria Prisons in line with the outline of 1972 had a specific mandate to reform, rehabilitate and to ensure effective re-integration of offenders back into the society in line with the universally accepted standards. 

The changed of nomenclature had however ensured a paradigm shift from what many analysts described as punitive colonial heritage to effective correctional facility for easy re-integration of inmates to the society for guaranteed National Peace and Security. 

Worthy of note is the fact that, the Nigeria Correctional Service Act, 2019 has two major components, the custodial service, and the non-custodial services that comprises parole, probation, community service and restorative justice aimed at reducing number of awaiting trial inmates at the various correctional facilities across the country. 

The immediate past Controller General of Corrections, Ja’afaru Ahmed (rtd) said the new Correctional Service Act was a fundamental departure from what was hitherto known as the Nigerian Prisons. 

He identified some of the reforms that had taken place in the service to make the heart of an offender amendable to correction to include massive infrastructure such as decent accommodations, healthcare facilities, feeding and vocational training facilities such as cottage industry, and shoe making, as well as meeting the  educational need of inmates which is one of the core mandate of the service. 

“We now have a whole new system of non-custodial services, parole is a period that inmate can be in the prison and then appears before a parole board, and is given the opportunity to serve his remaining sentence outside the prison system.” 

“And then probation, that comes from the court directly, and there’s also restorative justice which allows an offender the services from pre-trial, during trial and even after trial to deepens relationship with the convict” 

“Part of the reforms that came with the new law was the quantum of infrastructure, you will agree with me that most of our custodial centres are over one hundred years old and are dilapidated, but this administration has gone along way in providing funds for infrastructural development in our custodial centres conducive for human habitation, explained the former CG. 

Correction is community responsibility

Mrs. Ogechi Ogu, Deputy Director, Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action, PRAWA, described the new law as community correction that requires the commitment of every citizen toward crime prevention and reduction in the country. 

“Is focusing on addressing the fact that offence has been committed as well as the behaviour of the person that has committed this offence making him not to re-offend in future, So what is making this person go into crime, is it anger, then address issue of anger management, is it drugs, then address drugs treatment, is it lack of employment, then skills should be acquired and then at the end of the day, we have a reduction in the number of persons committing crime”, she maintained. 

Training of Officers

On his part, Management Consultant of Uche Firm Consultancy, Mr. Uche Owete stressed the need for a periodic seminars and workshops in addition to training and retraining of Correctional Officers and Men at the various correctional facilities across the country to build their capacity on the content of the new law. 

” This is for them to know what non-custodial measures is, so that when people come, because eventually they will be sending people to come and train in the school which is the starting point as far as implementation of the new law is concerned and if they know it, they will train others”.

” When you have restorative justice, fines, and even bail is a way of sending people away to decongest the facility, we have to divert people from going to the prison to the communities because eventually they will return to the communities “, said Owete. 

There is also the issue of security at the centres, some experts have stressed the need for government to muster the political will to provide adequate security for the custodial centres toward ensuring safety of inmates as well as avert future attacks on the custodial facilities in the country. 

They also want the government to holistically implement the new law in collaboration with relevant stakeholders to make correctional facilities in the country true rehabilitation centres for the growth and development of our dear Nation. 

Writing by Daniel Karlmax; Editing by Annabel Nwachukwu