It is for national interest that I write to convey the pains of the subordinate staff of the Nigerian Correctional Service.
Sir, let me start by stating that the security agencies in Nigeria, the staff of the paramilitary agencies under the Ministry of Interior are the poorest paid agencies. This is to the extent that a senior inspector of the Nigeria Police Force earns higher than a superintendent rank officer of the Nigerian Correctional Service and other agencies in the Ministry of Interior. In these poor conditions of service, the management of the Nigerian Correctional Service has continued to make life miserable for their subordinate staff.
The poor supervision and monitoring of the activities of the management of the service has given it power to abuse its privileged position to the detriment of national security and junior staff. The Ministry of Interior statutorily required to oversee the operations of this service failed woefully particularly in the last eight years.
Sir, in the handover documents, you will also be informed that this service suffered its worst casualties during the last eight years with the rate of escape and attacks on custodial centres across the country and staff of the service. These were caused by poor management, supervision and negligence by successive presidents.
Sir, it will be of national interest if the activities of the management of the service and the ministry in the last eight years are probed by your administration to unravel the ills committed and suffered by the nation and staff as highlighted below.
Sir, as a result of the change of name from the Nigerian Prisons Service to the Nigerian Correctional Service by virtue of the 2019 Act, the uniform of the service was changed. After years of foot-dragging, the management has refused to give every staff these new uniforms. They managed to stop at the superintendent rank without the accompanying accoutrements. The deputy superintendent officers down to the last rank of the Service have not been given the new uniform nor the accoutrements.
Since the harmonisation of ranks in the service, the number of junior staff has drastically reduced. The number of staff who retire or resign from the service is also adding to this menace of shortage of staff. Rather than recruit more hands, the few available staff are overused. Also, the housing provision for the staff of this service is poor and grossly inadequate.
The Lagos State Command Headquarters is more or less a slum. It is old and dilapidated. The Correctional Staff College in Kirikiri, Lagos State, is another eyesore where senior and junior officers are trained. It is more of a prison for staff.
The transportation of inmates to and from courts is another disheartening story. The vehicles at the disposal of custodial centres are grossly inadequate and old. Whereas, the National Headquarters with no single inmate is packed with various vehicles. There are no staff buses or vehicles for staff on court duties. Staff and inmates cramped themselves in these old green black marias and tata buses to and from courts.
With all these gory experiences, one would be forced to ask if the Nigerian Correctional Service is part of the national security architecture?
The Minister of Interior and the President must show interests in the activities of the management of the Nigerian Correctional Service. Just because their activities are largely behind the walls, these people abuse their offices. They exploit their staff the most.
Mr President, the exclusion of the heads of paramilitary agencies in national security meetings is not a good idea. The Minister of Interior is a political appointee who should not stand in for the heads of these agencies in security meetings with the president and other national security engagements.
Sir, going forward, a civilian should not be appointed as the Minister of Interior. The experience of this ministry and her agencies in the last eight years posed greatest threats to the nation’s national security. This ministry must be headed by either a deserving retired senior officer from the rank of a controller/comptroller of any of the paramilitary agencies under it or a deserving retired major general or its equivalent in the Armed Forces. This will help in putting a round peg in a round hole.
The curricula of the service must also be seriously and intentionally reviewed with up-to-date subjects in correctional service globally. Staff must be trained and retrained from time to time in line with modern correctional practices. Training facilities must be provided with modern equipment. Facilitators and directing staff must be specially trained for this purpose. This will go a long way in boosting the confidence and efficiency of staff.
Staff recruitment must be open and based on merit. The idea of recruiting largely the children, wives and relatives of staff and their friends who could barely read, write and/or communicate intelligibly affects the efficiency of the staff of the Service.
The Correctional Academy must also be established to train secondary school leavers on the rudiments of correctional service and national security for commissioning into the Nigerian Correctional Service. This will go a long way in encouraging the transfer of Nigerians serving jail terms overseas back to their home country as the system back home will be trusted and well equipped, to ensure that the purposes of imprisonment are not only met but reformation and rehabilitation take place before their (inmates) reintegration into society.
The various directorates and units of the service must be allowed to function independently but orderly. Heads of directorates, zones, commands, custodial centres and units of the service must be selected among the best brains of the service and not the highest bidders nor loyal officers. The idea of giving these important positions to loyalists and highest bidders has seriously dragged the service backward. This retrogressive act is the tradition in the service and it must stop forthwith. Unfortunately, these chosen ones have always proven to be incapable.
Sir, if the Nigerian Correctional Service is not taken seriously, the efforts of other security agencies and the judiciary will be in vain. The country will become restless as inmates will return hardened and economic activities will be disrupted because the economy thrives in a peaceful environment. Governance will become impossible and anarchy may set in.
• Owolabi Alani sent this piece via [email protected]