By Christiana Nwaogu and Ijeoma Nnorom
Inside Nigerian prisons, some inmates are breaking new grounds and making millions of naira by venturing into productive ventures.
The most outstanding are two inmates who took to agriculture and invested their earnings on education and transportation while still in the custodian centres set up by the authorities of Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS).
The two inmates have also become their families’ bread winners with one of them maintaining two of his children up to the university level.
Although the NCoS did not disclose the record-breaking inmates’ identities, our correspondent learnt that one of them is at the Kaduna State Custodial Camp while the second, until recently, was kept at a similar facility in Enugu State.
It was gathered that the inmate in Kaduna made well over N2 million from the sale of vegetables from his garden in the NCoS’ camp while his colleague in Enugu owned houses and bought buses for commercial use from the proceeds of his farm produce.
The public relations officer of the Correctional Service and Controller of Corrections, Francis Osagiede Enobore, at the end of the Comptroller-General (CG’s) 2019 media parley/facility tour of Dukpa Farm Centre in Gwagwalada, Abuja said that the inmate who trains two of his children in the university is not alone in this stride.
He said that another inmate from the South East who left the facility recently was able to acquire houses, bought buses for transportation business as well as household properties through the sales of his farm produces.
NCoS spokesman disclosed that the Service has 17 reformation farm centres spread across the country with over 22 tractors where “we produce large quantity of palm oil, rice, maize and other forms of grains, to help minister moral gaps to convicts.”
Enobore, however, explained that awaiting trial inmates who are on the high side in the correctional facilities are not usually deployed to the farms and other empowerment centres as the NCoS’ mandate revolves only around ensuring behavioural reorientation and retooling of convicts.
He said: ”Custodial camps are borderless environments where inmates who committed crimes outside sexual offences are taken after they have served one quarter of their sentences in the various locations of their primary detention. They are transferred to such locations based on the recommendation of officers in charge of their primary locations to be given monitored freedom. Monitored freedom in the sense that they are not entirely free but to a very large extent you don’t see them go about with wardens by their side. They are given relative freedom to see how they can gradually transit to the society. Most of them have their families around, they rent houses for their wives, children and they pay their school fees and all that.”
Enobore continued: “This treatment is available in all the skills acquisition facilities. So, we are impacting on them. The only challenge we have which I will not stop harping on is the lack of qualified beneficiaries. They are very enthusiastic about it. They are willing to learn. The truth is that we don’t have problems getting the inmates to learn, the problem we have which I feel I should repeat is lack of qualified inmates to be trained because we can’t train those that are awaiting trial. When you go to a facility and you hear that close to 87 to 88 per cent of the inmates there are awaiting trial, the question you ask yourself is what kind of training can you properly deploy that would be meaningful in that situation?
”Like you know, the farm centres are not established essentially to generate revenue; the focus is to train inmates. If I tell you what we gain training them in these vocational centres, I may be overstating the obvious, but you and I know that to close the moral gap in an adult offender whose character has been tarnished to the point of him deriving pleasure from eating from his sweat is commendable.
”You will agree with me that more efforts would have been put into it and it means a lot to the social economic stability of the country, peace in the land, providing something for the inmates to fall back to when he leaves and many other gains,” he said.
Still reeling out the achievements of the NCoS, the image maker remarked that the generous attention of the present administration to the Service coupled with the doggedness of the CG had provided a recipe for fundamental changes in offenders ‘ management.
He said this was evidenced in the reinvigorated reformation and rehabilitation programmes in custodial centres across the country, part of which was the multi-million naira bakery and confectionery unit established in three locations in 2019.
Enobore said: “You are also aware of the remarkable feat in the area of education by our inmates in recent times. In Kaduna State, 17 inmates enrolled to study various courses at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) campuses in the state. Fourteen of the 17 inmates enrolled for undergraduate courses while three others are for postgraduate programmes.
He disclosed that the inmates enrolled in various fields of study in the faculties of management science, education, law, art, science, and agriculture.
“We have equally attempted to address the age-long infrastructural deficit through the construction and rehabilitation of inmates’ cells including the provision of beds and beddings to enhance humane custody,” Enobore said.
According to him, “of significant mention is the 3,000-capacity modern custodial centres approved for all the geopolitical zones, with the one for the North West in Kano at the verge of completion and work just commencing in that for North Central in Abuja and Bori in Rivers State just commenced. This is even as 382 operational vehicles have been procured and distributed between 2016 and 2018 to improve access to justice for pre-trial detainees.
“In the area of healthcare, the Ja’afaru-led administration has continued to give premium to basic healthcare for inmates, a development which has helped to mitigate health complications usually arising from overcrowding in prisons cells,” he said.
The NCoS revealed that the current number of awaiting trial inmates (ATIs) stands at 52,000 nationwide while 24,000 inmates had been convicted.
Enobore, who observed that the hitherto recurring cases of jailbreaks, escape and riots in custodial centres had declined, said that some inmates who escaped following the natural disaster (flood) that affected the Koton Karfe community as well as their custodial facility, were still at large.
He said that efforts to recapture the escapees were ongoing, stating that the NCoS had developed Corrections Information Management System (CIMS) to capture inmates’ biometrics to boost case management. (Leadership)