By Ibironke Ariyo/ Yahaya Isah
The Federal Government is spending N22.44 billion in 2023 on the feeding of 75,507 inmates in correctional centres nationwide, an official said on Thursday in Abuja.
Dr Shuaib Belgore, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, said during a High-level conference on corrections and decongestion of custodial centres.
Belgore said that 70 percent of the inmates in 244 custodial centres nationwide were awaiting trial. He attributed the high number of awaiting trial inmates to arbitrary arrests, delay in dispensing justice and inability to meet bail conditions.
The permanent secretary said that the situation had led to the congestion of 82 custodial centres across the country.
“The total number of male inmates is 73,821 and 1,686 are female inmates. Out of the 75,507 inmates, 52,436 are awaiting trial while 23,071 are convicted persons, with 3,322 as condemned inmates on death row.
“The Federal Government budgeted N22.44 billion in the 2023 appropriation to cater for the feeding of inmates. Failure to take action to decongest the custodial centres will come at a cost.
“The effects of overcrowding in the custodial centres have led to a huge revenue drain for the Federal Government.
“Dilapidation of the centres, criminalisation of the society and the inability to separate awaiting trial inmates from convicted persons,” he said.
Belgore said there was a need for holistic reform of the country’s correction system, including the modernisation of custodial centres for appropriate reformation and rehabilitation of inmates.
He said that stakeholders have since emphasised the need to build new facilities and redesign the bail system.
“I am of the view that the discourse at this conference should allocate more time to address speedy dispensation of justice to reduce the number of inmates awaiting trial.
“In as much as the Ministry of Interior works tirelessly to accomplish the goal of achieving a greater reduction of the number of inmates across our custodial centres, we are determined to ensure that the correctional facilities provide not just decent accommodation.
“We also ensure that inmates acquire skills and knowledge to advance their integration into society when they eventually regain freedom,” Belgore said.
He said that the conference should propose efficient, effective and sustainable solutions to tackle the congestion of custodial centres and effective implementation of non-custodial measures.
The permanent secretary added that strategies should be devised to promote effective reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates.
Belgore said the role of the Federal and State Governments in the correction of inmates should also be examined by the conference.
“The statistics ratio of federal and state offenders is mind-boggling and worrisome.
“The federal offenders in the correctional facilities are far less than 10%, leaving the majority of over 90% to state offences,” he said.
Belgore said that improved implementation of the criminal justice system and adoption of non-custodial measures would help in the decongestion of custodial centres across the nation.