By Henry Udutchay
When Haliru Nababa, mni, assumed office as the Controller-General of the Nigerian Correctional Service on May 10, 2021, he came with tremendous zeal and commitment to bring holistic reform to the service. There is no doubt that he was prepared for the onerous task he was saddled with, considering his enviable record in the service as well as his outstanding academic reputation. To set the tone for the new administration, the CGC, in an inaugural meeting with the command officers held on August 6, 2021, outlined his agenda centred on comprehensive reform of the correctional service, including safe custody of inmates, training, staff and inmates welfare, capacity-building for staff, staff discipline and effective implementation of non-custodial measures. The meeting, which was attended by zonal coordinators, commandants, state controllers, and principals of the Borstal training institutions and principal officers from the national headquarters provided him the opportunity to share his vision and policy direction.
As a demonstration of his commitment to promotion of staff welfare, the CGC, shortly on assumption of office, initiated the promotion of 2,455 junior staff and also facilitated the release of promotion of 3,477 senior officers through the Civil Defence, Correctional Service, Fire and Immigration Service Board. This was to motivate the staff to work assiduously towards achieving his set goals.
In addition, he vigorously embarked on providing conducive office accommodation at various state command headquarters to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of staff. Among the states that have benefitted from the new offices is Osun, which was launched on July 23, 2021.
Also, to further acquaint himself with the state of facilities of correctional centres across the country, the CGC embarked on a familiarisation tour of the country to assess the state of infrastructures and facilities. This was in keeping with his commitment to provide safe and secure custodial centres where inmates are treated in line with global standards.
In keeping with the concept of a correctional service tailored towards reforming and rehabilitating inmates so that they could be re-integrated into the larger society, the CGC has initiated various programmes aimed at giving lifelines to former inmates to enable them engage in meaningful enterprises. This involves giving out starter packs and other incentives to inmates that acquire skills while in custody; indeed, one of the cardinal objectives of the Nababa-led administration is to provide opportunities for inmates to acquire necessary skills that will make them relevant in society. Many of the inmates have taken advantage of this unique opportunity to improve themselves while serving their term in the custody. For instance, there are several of them who have acquired various academic qualifications, including doctor of philosophy (PhD). This is made possible by the conducive and friendly environment provided by the new administration, as well as the encouragement given to the inmates to embark on any career of their choice.
Equally laudable is the agricultural policy of the administration, which is geared towards ensuring adequate food production not only to satisfy the food need of the staff and inmates, but also the entire nation. While flagging off the 2021 cowpea production on August 5, the CGC reiterated the commitment of his administration in food production. During the ceremony, he distributed 12 tractors to 10 farms across the country. The tractors are meant for the training of inmates in mechanized farming. He followed this up with a visit to Dukpa farm centre in Gwagwalada Area Council in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, where he called on the inmates to take advantage of the opportunity they have, while serving in correctional custody, to inprove their skills in modern food production.
Farming remains a key component in the correctional service administration. The Nigerian Correctional Service has 17 mechanized farm centres across the country; apart from being used to train inmates in modern food production, they are also to serve as source of food supply to feed the inmates. However, the farms were not being fully utilized until the present administration decided to give top priority to food production, which has seen the gradual resuscitation of the farms. The vision of the administration is to become self-sufficient in food production, thereby reducing the huge cost the Federal Government is spending on feeding the inmates.
Similarly, in line with the new welfare policy of the administration, much emphasis has been given to providing quality healthcare system in the correctional centres across the country. This has resulted in accelerated provision of healthcare needs of the inmates. It is instructive to note that the correctional centres have not experienced any major outbreak of diseases in recent times, unlike in the past. Equally commendable is the fact that there has been no record of COVID-19 incident in any of the correctional centres since the outbreak of the dreaded discase. This can only be attributed to various measures put in place by the administration to safeguard the health of the staff and inmates. In addition, the administration is interfacing with various orgnisations towards improving the general condition of the correctional centres, especially as it relates to the welfare of the vulnerable, juveniles and female inmates.
Also arising from incessant jailbreaks as a result of the porous and weak structure in the correctional centres, the CGC has introduced various measures that would curb this ugly trend, which has become a major embarrassment to the country. Indeed, securing the life of the staff and inmates, as well as the facilities, has been given top priority by the administration.
No doubt, the first 100 days in office of Haliru Nababa as the Controller General of Nigerian Correctional Service has witnessed a breathtaking flurry of activities, which are geared towards the transformation of correctional service in the country. Though it is still too early to draw conclusions on the performance of the CGC, there are clear indications that the present administration is committed to giving a new face to Nigerian Correctional Service. Given the reputation of the CGC as an astute and tested administrator, with an impeachable record in service, he has all it takes to achieve this lofty vision for the service, but he needs the support of government, especially in the area of funding, which is key to achieving his target.
•Chief Udutchay is a public affairs analyst; email@example.com
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