Attorneys request an investigation into the proposed N22.44 billion for prisoner feeding

641

On October 9, 2022, the Federal Government made a proposal of more than N22.44 billion for the provision of food to prisoners located throughout the country.

It was determined through investigation that the funds were intended to be used by the Nigeria Correctional Service in 2023 for the purchase of catering materials and food items.

To be more specific, the budget allotted for the stated item by the Correctional Service is N22,447,582,237.

In addition, more than N304.39 billion was allotted for the parent ministry of interior under this number, which is part of the executive proposal included in the 2023 Appropriations Bill by the Federal Government.

Out of that total, the headquarters of the Ministry of the Interior would receive N2.66 billion, while the Nigeria Correctional Service will receive N91.79 billion.

Inmate Population by Convict and Awaiting Trial Persons as of October 17, 2022 has a total of 76,203 persons, with a total of male inmates 74, 574, a total of female inmates 1,629, a total of convicted inmates 23,131, convicted male inmates 22,742, and convicted female inmates 389. The total number of male inmates is 74, 574, while the total number of female inmates is 1,629.

There are now 1,240 female inmates and 51,832 male inmates who are awaiting trial. The total number of inmates who are awaiting trial is 53,072. The percentage of detainees who have been found guilty is thirty percent, while the percentage of inmates who are awaiting trial is seventy percent. The percentage of male inmates makes up 98% of the total, while the percentage of female inmates makes up only 2% of the population.

The Federal Government’s anticipated expenditure of N22.44 billion for the feeding of inmates across the country in 2023 appears to be quite unrealistic given that the inmates will still not be fed enough. Some convicts who were incarcerated during the time their eating allowance was increased from N450 per day to N750 and N1000 said that despite the rise in the amount of money that is allotted for food per inmate (from N750 to N1,000), they still do not eat enough.

Judiciary Watch spoke with a number of seasoned attorneys as well as former detainees about the question of whether or not it is prudent for the federal government to spend such a large amount of money while more than two-thirds of the inmates are awaiting trial.

Professor Sam Erugo, SAN, who teaches law, stated that it is challenging to rationalize the situation in terms of social justice.

He stated that even though it is the responsibility of the government to provide for prisoners, including those who are awaiting detention, it is an irony that a Federal Government that cannot afford social benefits of N1,000/day per indigent free citizen, including the elderly, sick, and unemployed youth, can afford a budget of that amount for prisoners. He said that even though it is the responsibility of the government to provide for prisoners, including those who are awaiting detention, it is an irony that a Federal Government can afford

According to him, the problem is not the budget; rather, it is the corrupt system that will not allow the sum that is budgeted to be used for the purpose.

Even the budget itself might be bloated or “padded,” as the expression goes. Unfortunately, efforts to restrict the problem of detainees awaiting trial that were only half-hearted and corrupted have not been successful.

“This can be traced back to corrupted systems and institutions in equal measure. It is unconscionable for the federal government to spend such a significant amount of money on feeding largely pretrial detainees.

According to what he had to say, “I propose that the Federal Government should rather reconsider measures to minimize the number of pre-trial detainees in order to conserve scarce resources.”

Erugo suggested that the Federal Government should be sincere in the strategies it employs to achieve the reduction of the number of inmates. One simple strategy could be to engage the services of the Nigerian Bar Association and then ensure that security agencies fully observe the tenets of the rule of law in their handling of criminal complaints. Erugo’s suggestion was made in response to the fact that the Federal Government should be sincere in the strategies it employs to achieve the reduction of the number of inmates.

It is time to put an end to the practice of seizing people at the first available chance in order to exert unbridled governmental power. “Security agents ought to be held accountable for any and all instances of improper detention,” he stated.

On his end, Mr. Victor Opara, SAN stated that inmates need to be fed whenever they are taken to the correctional centers, but that the Federal Government needs to investigate how the money is spent in order to ensure that it is being spent appropriately.

He added that once persons were sent to correctional centers, whether as criminals or remanded upon refusal of bail or remanded until the perfection of bail, they needed to be fed. He said that this was the case regardless of whether or not they were remanded. In the same way that only the living are able to glorify God, only the living can face judgment.

Opara has asserted that there is a requirement for the government to investigate the enormous amount of money that is purportedly spent on feeding inmates.

“The detainees are people with human rights, and those rights deserved to be respected. The government is responsible for making sure that the funds allotted for feeding detainees are used in an efficient manner.

“In meritorious cases, our judicial system should make use of alternatives to custodial sentencing in order to reduce the number of people housed in our jail facilities.

“Misdemeanor offenders should be penalized, engaged in community service, or anything along those lines rather than being condemned to correctional centers,” he stated.

Dr. Monday Ubani, who is the head of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law, or NBA-SPIDEL, stated that not even half of that budget will be used to feed the inmates who are housed in the correctional facilities.

According to him, a person would choose to be in a toilet where there is liberty rather than in a prison in Nigeria since the environment in the Nigerian prison is worse than the environment in the toilet.

“The Nigerian prison is filthy and has an unpleasant odor, and the circumstances of individuals who are being held there is something that is better imagined than stated.” It’s a living hell. If you spend a week there and then leave, you will be considered unwell even if you don’t get checked out or get any kind of medical care, and you will be labeled as such.

“In the normal course of events, that sum of money would have been sufficient to take good care of them in an appropriate manner provided that we have extremely respectable people running Nigeria.

“As we can see in jails located in other countries, where inmates are required to eat three square meals per day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served.

“I heard that some Nigerians even prefer to go to prison abroad when they run into very difficult situations over there rather than return to Nigeria because the condition there is very palatable but this is not the case with the Nigerian prison system or the Nigerian rehabilitation system. I heard this because I heard that some Nigerians even prefer to go to prison abroad when they run into very difficult situations over there. It’s as bad as it gets. Therefore, the amount of money that has been allocated for that purpose in the budget will not be distributed to the appropriate recipients.

“There is money set down in the budget for them” (the handlers). It is not intended for the convicts; but, if the money is released, it will be distributed equally among all of them,” stated Ubani.

Yemi Omodele, an additional lawyer, argued that corruption is prevalent in all aspects of Nigerian society, including the Nigeria Correctional Service, and that this is not an exception.

He added that there would be a redistribution of the money that were made available to the correctional facilities.

Omodele has requested that an investigation be conducted into all of the funds that have been allotted to the correctional service from the year 1999 up until the present day.

He added, “I have compassion for the prisoners. There ought to be a covert inquiry into the manner in which the money that has been allotted to the correctional service from 1999 up to the present has been spent. If you do what needs to be done, you will find that it is a dishonest market.

If you talk to a few of the detainees, it may seem as if the government does not provide such facilities with a single kobo. Both those who control the situation and those who do not control it are perpetrators of fraud. Have you heard that the officials of the centers are taking food and other supplies that were donated to the detainees by nongovernmental organizations and using them for their own purposes? Figure it out. If what has been said is accurate, then what will happen to the money?