The Senate has taken a swipe at the Nigeria Correctional Service, NCS, saying it is disheartening to hear that dogs in the service of the Nigeria Correctional Service are better fed than any of the over 81,000 inmates in correctional centres across the country.
Speaking on Thursday in Abuja during the 2024 budget defence session with the Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Interior, Chairman of the Committee and former governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, APC, Edo North expressed surprise at the very ugly situation that the NCS has 900 dogs across its custodial centres and it spends N800 every day to feed them while N750 is spent on an inmate.
He wondered why “dogs are better fed than inmates in correctional centres, many of whom are awaiting trial.”
Oshiomhole who noted that this explained why some inmates, who are convicted on simple cases, leave prisons as hardened criminals because of the inhuman treatment meted out to them, adding ” with the high cost of living, we suspect that these inmates are not fed three times a day. It is not your fault, don’t try to be defensive. It is an appropriation issue,” he told the CG.”
Earlier, the Comptroller General of the Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa had told the Committee that the service spends N800 per day to feed each of the 900 dogs in the service while just N750 is allocated to feed each prisoner, majority of whom are awaiting trials, at N250 per meal.
Nababa who told the lawmakers that there are over N81,000 inmates across the custodial centres nationwide, with more than 53,000 of them awaiting trial, said that his Service spends N750 to feed an inmate per day, an amount he said was grossly inadequate, just as he said that they had proposed an upward review of N3,000 daily feeding cost for an inmate and the proposal had been submitted to the Minister of Interior.
Nababa said, “The total number of inmates in 2023 is 81,354 nationwide while 53, 352 are awaiting trial. We feed each inmate with N750 daily and they are fed 3 times daily (N250 for each square meal). We have 900 security dogs and to feed a dog each day is N800 daily.”
He also said that the correctional service has 900 dogs across its custodial centres, and that it spends N800 to feed each of them daily, just as he pleaded with the lawmakers to come to their aid as they have already requested an increase in the feeding amounts for the inmates.
“Nababa said, “We wrote a letter to the President to review 3,000 per day for each inmate. We want this committee to assist us in putting in words for us. The money is grossly inadequate. The budget for feeding each of them per day is N751 per day at N250 per meal, per inmate.
The CG explained that the feeding allowance per day would be reduced to N720 after the reduction of VAT and tax
Speaking further, Oshiomhole said that 53, 352 or more are not convicted yet, they are awaiting trial. They are not guilty of any offence known to law. They are innocent under our laws. For an innocent Nigerian who is being held in a correctional home N250 per meal is grossly inadequate. I wonder what you are feeding them with. They are obviously underfed.
Oshiomhole lamented that while the fault might not be that of the Correctional Service, it was heart-wrecking to know that the Nigerian government has been dehumanizing her citizens, adding, “The figures given here suggest that you have been dehumanizing Nigerians. If it was the policy of the Federal Government to appropriate more money to feed dogs than human beings, we must correct errors of the past.”
According to him, the government must scale up efforts to address unemployment as prisoners from other countries have made matters worse by taking up jobs meant for Nigerians, describing the situation as an inhumane act to inmates.
Oshiomhole who requested a breakdown of the number of inmates and security dogs they have at the moment and how they are fed on a daily basis, said, ” I would like to see a breakdown of how you feed these inmates, if you say you feed inmates three times a day with N250 each. How many dogs do you have and how much does it cost to feed them daily?”
Not happy with explanations by Nababa, Oshiomhole who emphasised that the committee will not be in a hurry to “rubber stamp” or approve any budget until they receive satisfactory answers, said, “Your name has been changed from prison to correctional, but you are dehumanising.
“It’s not just your fault because the government appropriates little money for you but it is either that you don’t feed these prisoners or you feed them only once and even at that, very miserable food.
“This is why they have completely emaciated and some can never live a decent life again even when they did not commit an offence. It is not correct to tell us that you feed prisoners a day with N750, how?
“You all know the prices of these food items in the market, so how can you look us eye to eye and tell us that you feed a man in Nigeria awaiting trial or even committed an offence with N750 a day, how much is a bottle of water,” he questioned.
“The Minister of Interior said yesterday that the NCS rather than being correctional is dehumanising. I am surprised that the 2024 budget is still based on old figures. I am surprised the CG cannot, based on the market forces, present before us, the realistic amount that could feed an innocent Nigerian who has not been pronounced guilty by any court of law. You mean the chart is so complicated that you will need to read a book to tell us?”
Oshiomhole who asked the NCS team how much it costs them to buy the quantity of the foodstuff and ingredients needed to prepare the meal of a prisoner, said, “This is a very important assignment. A lot of Nigerians under your care are innocent. They are in prisons, courtesy of big men and women who want to “teach them a lesson”
“Many of them are there on an offence they knew nothing about. However, the system has put them under your care.
“Somebody said if Mandela was in a Nigerian prison for 27 years, he would have lost his sanity by the time he was released to govern South Africa. Our prisons are meant to correct the behaviours of the people. They are not condemnation centres. They are not to dehumanised.”
In her contribution, Senator Ireti Kingibe, LP, FCT who was not satisfied with Nababa ‘s response, questioned the welfare of the inmates, asking, “How many doctors and veterinary doctors do you have taking care of these inmates and dogs,”
Prior to answering this query, Nababa and his team were seen chatting amongst themselves before they could answer the question, giving the impression that they were lacking the necessary information.
Minutes later, Nababa responded, saying, “We have 75 Medical doctors and consultants, 6 veterinary doctors who cover Lagos, Kaduna, Owerri and some of them cover more than one state and they move from place to place. The veterinary doctors have different nurses under them.”
Other Lawmakers present at the joint sitting were; Rep. Adebayo Balogun, APC, Lagos); Francis Fadahunsi, PDP, Osun East), Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, PDP, Kebbi North; Ezenwa Onyewuchi, LP, Imo East); Ireti Kingibe, LP, FCT, Abdulaziz Yari, APC, Zamfara West, amongst others.