“Only recently, the Chief Judge of the FCT sent a high powered team to see what they could do to reduce the problem of these awaiting trial and they are working on it.”
Tony Ailemen Abuja
The slow system of justice administration in Nigeria is yet to abate despite several efforts by stakeholders to address the issue.
This challenge is however blamed on several factors including the sudden increase in crimes and criminal activities across the country as well as slow Justice administration which sees cases lingering for many years
But speaking, weekend when the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP conducted new entrants into the Procurement Cadre round facilities around the Kuje Medium Security Prison, Abuja, the Deputy Comptroller of Prison, DCP Musa Tanko who is in charge of the Kuje Prisons, listed over crowding among its challenges, adding that the problem has persisted despite several efforts to check it.
DCP Tanko who noted that the Kuje Medium Security Prison was established to cater for about 500 inmates, disclosed that the prison now accommodates over 850 due to increase in criminal activities
“ We have only about 150 convicted prisoners here, but still those awaiting trials are getting to 700 persons. So, you can see that one of our basic challenge is the problem of those who are awaiting trials. The increase in crimes have driven us to this level” he said
“Even though we are a medium security prison, we have all kinds of inmates here. We have the condemned prisoners, we have those serving life sentences and we have different others who are serving various jail terms with us”
He disclosed that despite these challenges, government has done its best to make the place comfortable for the inmates and bring their facilities to world standards
“Federal Government has done so much to ensure that the Kuje and other prisons across the country are managed according to world standards. As you can see, they enjoy 24 hours light here, their food is far better than what they would have been able to even afford in their own out side the prison”
“ In terms of health facilities, we have standard facilities also” he said.
“Certainly we are not insulated from the general problems in Nigeria. Our prison have the capacity of managing only about 560 inmates, but because of the increase in the volume of crime in the society, we are saddled with the responsibility of managing over 852 inmates, about 300 more than the actual capacity”
He also disclosed that federal government is doing everything it can to address the problems.
“Only recently, the Chief Judge of the FCT sent a high powered team to see what they could do to reduce the problem of these awaiting trial and they are working on it,” he said
“We do not keep females here because we do not have the facilities to take care of them at the Kuje Medium Security Prison”
“All female inmates are taken to Suleija where such facilities exist. Although their management is under the FCT, they accommodate such female inmates for the FCT”
Speaking further on what the prison authorities are doing to reform the prisoners, he disclosed that government has put in place measures to provide various form of empowerments,,including soap making, tailoring and barbing amongst others
“Here at Kuje prisons we have the soap industry where we train inmates on soap making, we also train inmates on how to sew clothes, we have the carpentry workshop”
He disclosed that under the prison education programme, no fewer than 32 inmates are currently at the two hundred levels of the National Open University system studying various courses, including Law.
“Others learn the art of barbing and we also run academic programmes including the Open University, at the moment we have 32 students who are already at their two hundred levels”
“They entered into the University here after meeting all the admission requirements, same as people from outside”
“These students are reading various courses ranging from Law, Political Science, Sociology, to mention a few”
He disclosed that the Prison are is also running the Exra- moral classes where students are prepared for the GCE and WAEC programmes
“ We also run programmes for the General Certificate of Education, GCE, West African School Certificate Examination Programme and every year, we produce students with up to six credit and they are performing excellently well”
“These programmes enable the inmates who wish to pursue educational career to do so after they have qualified for the University, they get admitted and pursue courses they prefer” he said .
Speaking on the need for conducting the new Procurement Officers round the prisons, the Director General DG of the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, Engr. Emeka Ezeh, said it was part of the training for the new procurement officers to equip them with knowledge of what will befall them if they violet the 2007 procurement act
Represented by Dr. James Akanmu, Director, Research, Training and Strategic Planning of the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, he noted that the Act has clearly stipulated punishments for such infractions.
“You know that from the Public Procurement Act, offenses were identified and there are also sanctions for the offenses. If you go to section 58(5) of the Act, which relates to the public officials, including staff of the Bureau, Ministries, Agencies and Parastatals of federal government which are the staff we brought here”
“The sanction for any offense upon conviction, is jail terms ranging from not less than 5 calendar years, without an option of fine. And once you are jailed, where will you be? The prisons of course. So, you need to have an idea and see how the place is”
“The question now is, do I want to go to jail and be imprisoned? I do not want to be and I will not be by God’s grace. But how would I not be? It is fir me to do the job rightly, following the rules and regulations as stipulated. It is for me to follow the relies governing financial regulations”
“ This is why we trained the newly recruited officers. Both on the rudiments if the job, as well as tell you the implications of doing it wrongly”
“See it with your own eye, appreciate it so that you can act with that consciousness of the implications”, adding that “That was actually the import of it”
Speaking on the punishments for the contractors who also violates the procurement laws, he noted that the same section 58 (7) and (8) talks about the punishments for the service providers.
“ If I take you back to section 16 (21) says that the public officers will not only be responsible for the actions that they take but they will also be accountable to any action taken or is needed to be taken in compliance with the Act.”
He noted that while the contractors have their own punishments, the public procurement officers need to know the implications of the actions they take or fail to take under the law.
“It is the duty of the officer to identify where the problem lies and to take necessary actions including notifying the appropriate authorities to act accordingly, including carrying out further investigations and if need be to prosecute”
“Ours is to identify the problems and notify the appropriate authorities including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC and the Nigerian Police, as the case may be”.