The Federal Government has directed officials of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) to protect all custodial centres in the country.
Rauf Aregbesola, the Minister of Interior, gave the directive on Friday at a meeting with squadron commanders of the service at the NCoS Headquarters in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Amid the disturbing spate of insecurity in the country, the minister directed all officers of the services to defend the custodial centres at all costs.
“More importantly, you are armed and positioned to directly guard them and defend their integrity. Your mission is to defend the facilities at all costs. Let me repeat again, defend them at all costs,” he told the officials at the meeting.
Aregbesola added, “You are empowered by the highest authority in the land to use every means necessary to defend the custodial centres against internal and external aggression.”
He noted the attack on the custodial centre in Owerri, the Imo State capital, saying that was the worst of its kind.
The minister also recalled the coordinated attacks on custodial centres in Edo State and an unsuccessful attempt was made in Lagos in 2020.
He warned that a pattern of attack on custodial centres was emerging, saying it was being used to stage attacks on correctional facilities amid the present security challenges.
According to Aregbesola, the custodial facilities are sacred and inviolable institutions, as well as a symbol of the authority of the Nigerian State.
“You will notice that they are usually built around military fortresses, to show how important they are. This is to deter would-be attackers from inside or outside. The weapons you carry and the instrument you have are to be lawfully deployed for maximum effect, in protecting the facilities.
“Anyone or group of persons that decide(s) to attack them should not live to regret it. You must not fail because failure means you have contributed to the insecurity in the land by allowing criminals to invade the society,” he said.
SPEECH BY THE MINISTER OF INTERIOR, OGBENI RAUF AREGBESOLA, WHILE ADDRESSING SQUADRON COMMANDERS OF THE NIGERIA CORRECTIONAL SERVICE (NCOS), HELD AT THE NIGERIA CORRECTIONAL SERVICE HEADQUARTERS, AIRPORT ROAD, ABUJA, ON FRIDAY APRIL 30, 2021
INVIOLABLE CUSTODIAL CENTRES
It gives me great pleasure to be at this event and address squadron commanders of the Nigeria Correctional Service. This meeting is very important considering the security challenges we face in the country at the moment.
It is not in dispute that attempts are always made to compromise the integrity of the custodial centres – from within or without or simultaneously. This ranges from mild to very serious, with varying degrees of success.
Earlier this month, there was an attack, the worst of its kind, on the Owerri custodial centre. During the #ENDSARS riots of late last year, there were coordinated attacks on custodial centres in Edo State, while an unsuccessful attempt was made in Lagos.
It should be clear that a pattern of attack on custodial centres is emerging, in which the current security challenges are being used to stage attacks on our facilities.
Let me commend you for your professionalism, diligence, and sacrifice in the performance of your duty which have upheld the integrity of our custodial centres. Your job is like that of a goalkeeper.
The saves he made are hardly reckoned with, but the shots that sailed past him into the net are the issues counted against him. I am aware of the yeoman’s job you are doing in foiling attacks on our institutions, even as the outcry grows on the recent cases of jailbreaks.
We must note that the prison in ancient times was not to incarcerate an accused person for a long term. It was for the holding period before an accused would face trial and sentencing. The punishment of which could be in form of fines, lashing, banishment, being sold into slavery, execution and so on.
The resources and the presence of mind were not just there, and the mode of social organisation did not conceive of it. It was not until the 18th Century that prison terms are imposed on convicts as a form of punishment, following the ascendancy of human rights advocacy.
The first western-styled prison in Nigeria was the Broad Street Prison established in 1872 but penology historians would tell us that the appointment of Colonel V. L. Mabb as Director of Prisons in 1934 by the then Governor, Sir Donald Cameron, marked the introduction of the modern prison system in the country.
The Native Authority prisons were abolished in 1968 followed by the unification of all prisons under the Nigerian Prison Service which has now become the Nigeria Correctional Service. Custodial centres are integral to human civilisation. They are the heart and soul of the justice system.
In the developmental process, not everyone will be well adjusted to society. Some are brought up in bad environments. There are those who will be morally challenged i.e., not knowing the difference between right and wrong. There are others who made mistakes.
The common factor between them all is that they constitute a danger to society and human civilisation. Take for instance serial murderers or armed robbers. Their presence in human society, mingling unfettered with others, constitutes grave risks to lives and property.
They will bring chaos and disorder, recreating Thomas Hobbes’ mythical state of nature where the ‘life of man is solitary, nasty, brutish and short’. No normal person will want to be part of that madness.
This is why civilised human society devised a holding system where offenders can be legally and securely confined, separated from the rest of society. The primary reason for holding criminals, therefore, is to put them in a condition where they would not be able to menace society and therefore keep society safe from them.
Order and balance will be restored when criminals are put in lawful custody, whenever a crime is committed. The second, and not less important, stems from the notion that humans are capable of being good and therefore, subject to reformation in the right environment, they can be reset to factory setting through conscious reformation.
This, of course, is why our agency is now formally called a correctional institution. Nevertheless, these two ideas undergird the correctional institution. Depending on the severity of offence, jail terms vary.
A lot, if not most, are on a short term; others are on a long term, while some are going to spend the rest of their lives in a facility. Some others are waiting to be executed. It is absolutely necessary for all of them to complete their term or be kept in custody as stipulated.
This is the foundation on which societal justice is built. Grave and incalculable harm will be done to society if this foundation slips. The entire edifice will come crashing down, with dire consequences for all.
We are already seeing some of these. Some of the escaped inmates from Edo have been arrested for committing murder and other crimes. One, in particular, went after those who provided the witness for his conviction.
The custodial facilities are a symbol of the authority of the Nigerian State. They are sacred and inviolable institutions. You will notice that they are usually built around military fortresses, to show how important they are. This is to deter would-be attackers from inside or outside.
More importantly, you are armed and positioned to directly guard them and defend their integrity. Your mission is to defend the facilities at all costs. Let me repeat again, defend them at all cost.
You are empowered by the highest authority in the land to use every means necessary to defend the custodial centres against internal and external aggression. The weapons you carry and the instrument you have are to be lawfully deployed for maximum effect, in protecting the facilities.
Anyone or group of persons that decide(s) to attack them should not live to regret it. You must not fail because failure means you have contributed to the insecurity in the land by allowing criminals to invade society.
This begins with vigilance. You must be on the watch for any instrument or material that could aid criminals in perpetuating jailbreaks. Again, earlier this month, vigilant officers stopped one of their colleagues from smuggling a mobile phone to an inmate in Bauchi.
It will be difficult, if not impossible, for inmates to break from inside without receiving assistance from officers, no matter how little. It is my firm belief that you will return to your posts recharged, renewed, reinvigorated and reequipped with a new sense of purpose.
A philosopher once said that you may not be able to change the world, but all that is required of you is to do your part and do it well. That is what it takes to change the world.
I wish you a safe journey to your various posts.
I thank you all for your kind attention.