Reps seeks to remove correctional services from Exclusive Legislative list

The House of Representatives has passed for second reading a bill seeking to decentralize the Correctional Services in the country and allow states to build and control such centres alongside the federal government.

Leading the debate on the bill, its Sponsor, Mr Benjamin Kalu said as presently constituted, prisons in Nigeria lack the capacity to reform errant members of the society sent there for correction.

According to him, rather than being reformed and turning a new leaf, many offenders sent to the prisons turn out to become even more hardened.

He argued that the new Nigerian Correctional Service Act which repealed and replaced the Prisons reflects the need to reform system, adding that beyond the name change, the law has many provisions, which are laudable and cheering.

The Lawmaker stated that when passed into law, state governments will be empowered to build their own Correctional Centres as a way of decongesting the existing centres which are said to have been over stressed.

He said the problem of prison congestion in the country is huge, saying in the March 2019 edition of the Lagos State Criminal Information System revealed that though the five prisons in Lagos State have a combined holding capacity of 4,087, they were holding 9,044 inmates.

Mr Kalu disclosed that the 240 prisons in Nigeria has an official capacity of 50,153 inmates but currently holding over 74,000 inmates, adding that overcrowding of prisons is a serious challenge and obstacle to the implementation of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners adopted by the United Nations in 2015.

The Lawmaker observed that the way forward was for more prisons to be built; stressing that achieving total reform of the reformatory institutions in the country would never be possible except the nations takes a deliberate and bold step towards building more reformatory centres.

Speaking against the bill however, a member from Abia State, Mr Nkem Abonta, argued that states may abuse the process if they are allowed to build and control prisons.

IBRAHIM SHEHU

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