The authorities of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS) have described the allegation by Mr Femi Falaba that some of its personnel arrange for convicts to evade serving terms in its facilities as “a wild and unsubstantiated allegation (which) is unpatriotic and most unfortunate, especially coming from a respected lawyer of international recognition”.
Falaba, a renowned human rights activist who is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) had a few days ago alleged that some personnel engaged in prisoner swop at Mile 2, which is a few minutes drive from the Kirikiri Correctional Centre.
“This will surprise you, when a judge pronounces a jail term, sir, before getting to Kirikiri, at Mile 2, warders have an arrangement whereby some prepared young persons will replace the convict. That is the person that will enter the prison, he’s paid.
“The second one, in the court premises, there’s a syndicate by the defence counsel, prosecutors, warders and court clerks. Once the judge turns his back, the convict will arrange and pay them and the convict will walk back home.
“There’s a study in Lagos, I think 2005/2006, 199 people sentenced for drug trafficking, none of them made it to the prison. It’s a very serious crisis we are facing. If you want to discuss the security of our country, it goes beyond calling for mercenaries”, he was quoted as saying.
But the NCS in a statement by its Public Relations Officer ((PRO), OF Enobore, a Controller of Corrections said the Service has observed a worrisome and growing consistency by the author to vilify the NCS without a just course. “It would be recalled that in February 2021, the author alleged that a high profile inmate who was on remand in the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kaduna contracted COVID-19 in custody. The alarm which insinuated that inmates were kept in squalor and exposed to debilitating health conditions, triggered condemnation from various quarters. Subsequently, an independent COVID-19 test by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in conjunction with the personal physician of the then inmate was conducted. The result came negative without a trace of the disease in her system.
“Now the alarm is being raised over hearsay arrangements to keep in custody persons other than those legally convicted yet no name of persons or custodial centre is mentioned. The Service is compelled to respond to the allegation in order to correct the wrong impression and prevent the disaffection the information is capable of creating in the mind of Nigerians.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the process of admitting persons into custody begins with the court where the warrant is issued stating the particulars of the person concerned. At the designated custodial centre, the personal details are confirmed by the superintending officer before further biometrics, including photographs, are taken.
The Service further listed ways through which it ensures that personnel do not engage in underhand dealings. According to the Service, on routine visits by the Controller in charge of the state, inmates and their corresponding documents are checked. It also states that the Zonal Coordinator conducts his mandatory custodial centre inspection during which this information and general supervision of the yard is carried out. The Controller-General, on his own, carries out unscheduled visits to any custodial centre and prisoners’ records are checked, it emphasized.
“Moreover, Judges, lawyers, statutory custodial visitors, inmates’ relations, religious groups, civil society organisations and a host of other visitors regularly interface with the inmates and it is expected that where such incident is observed, an alarm is raised for appropriate action to be taken”
The Service say what is more intriguing in this scenario is the fact that the author is a public figure like many other distinguished Nigerians, that cannot be denied access to any custodial centre in the country upon request for a genuine course.
“One, therefore, wonders why he would resort to a wild statement rather than identify a particular culprit with proof of his allegation as would be expected of a patriot.
“As always, the Controller-General of Corrections, Haliru Nababa is irrevocably committed to the good course of inmates’ care and support for the betterment of the society and recent commendable performances of the inmates in both academic and vocational skills acquisition bear eloquent testimonials to this positive trajectory”, the NCS stressed.