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Rising food inflation breeds uncertainty over feeding of Nigerian prisoners 
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Rising food inflation breeds uncertainty over feeding of Nigerian prisoners 

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The increasing cost of food stuffs and gas has led to grumblings among some inmates in the nation’s various prisons.

Relatives of some inmates who confided in Vanguard, noted that the rising cost of foodstuffs has impacted negatively on their wards behind bars.

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They are, therefore, asking state governments to liberalize bail conditions for petty crimes in a way that offenders could easily meet their bail conditions and attend trial from home.

Nigeria currently has 256 prisons with 81,647 inmate population as of May 31, 2024.

This is made up of 5,853 for federal offences, comprising 3,774 pre-trial detainees and 2,079 convicts, while those for state offences are 75,794, comprising 51,934 awaiting trial and 23,860 as convicts.

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Recall that in 2021, the federal government had after a sustained public outrage, reluctantly increased the feeding allowance per inmate from N450 to N750 daily.

It was gathered that when taxes, cost of gas and profits for the food vendors are taken from this N750, the actual amount used for feeding an inmate in a day could be less than N500.

“The slow response to adjustment of allowance for feeding inmates is actually worrisome. It is perhaps trite to say that the price of most commodities in Nigeria, especially food, has gone beyond the reach of the average Nigerians.

“As if this is not enough, one gets petrified that with this economic reality, the management of the Nigerian Correctional Service is still expected to feed inmates with N750.00 per day, including vendors profit and tax.

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“If the government would spend N700 on a little child of less than 10 years just for one meal as part of its school feeding programme, a child who probably ate breakfast before going to school and who would still eat dinner, you can imagine the implications of feeding a full grown adult who is incarcerated with N750 for a three square meal daily,” said a top security personnel who did not want his name mentioned in the report.

Expressing fears of possible protests by some of the inmates, he said the situation could force some personnel to compromise security, especially with regard to “trafficking”.

He added:  “The spirit behind legal internment of individuals, whether as suspects or convicted offenders, is to promote societal peace. This is in the understanding that some persons do not have the capacity to interact with others within civil boundaries, thus requiring the law to keep them out of circulation.

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”It could also be to avoid tampering with the justice process while cases are on trial or, to serve as deterrent for convicts as well as would-be-offenders. Sometimes, incarceration also protects offenders from a vengeful society, among others.

“However, contemporary practices in the management of persons denied of their liberty requires that such persons are kept humanely safe and basic needs for survival provided by the captors.

“A growing concern about the Nigerian Prisons Service is the ‘inadvertent forgetfulness’ of the Nigerian government to make the most basic provisions for the upkeep of its prisoners in accordance with prevailing economic ecosystem.

“My deep worry is a possible compromise of operational standards which may precipitate security breaches with far-reaching security and socioeconomic consequences. We are all witnesses to the unprecedented unrest and upsurge in crimes in contiguous communities each time there is a security breach and inmates escape from a custodial centre.

“The stone a man sees flying in the air should not blind him. If we must save nine, we need to stitch in time. The federal government must avoid this looming crisis by intervening as speedily as possible”.

A 62-year-old retired civil servant, Sunday Jegede, who said his son was being remanded in one of the prisons in the south, faulted state governments for their lack of interest in Prisons.

“There is no doubt, state governments have shown no decorum in the use of incarceration for all manner of crimes in their jurisdictions and literally abandoning the inmates after remand, thus exacerbating the over-population phenomenon and the accompanying menace.

”This, more than anything else, justifies the decision by the federal government to transfer the burden of state offenders, which is over 85 per cent of the inmate population to states.

“But given that state governments do not have the capacity to provide for these persons, why can’t they embark on massive decongestion of prisons, as against the tokenistic release of five to eight persons by visiting chief judges?

”Why can’t they liberalize bail conditions to enable inmates attend court sessions from their homes, at least, for minor crimes? Why can’t they even expedite trial processes so that the convicted population can be taken to farms to work and augment their upkeep?

“We must realize that societal progress is a function of the level of safety the citizens enjoy. While chasing the criminals at large, those in custody should be kept in conditions that make them amenable to reformation and rehabilitation to promote enduring peace,” he stated.

Vanguard


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