By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, at the weekend disclosed that federal government spends N730 to feed every prisoner in Nigerian prisons every day, saying it is grossly inadequate compared to America where a prisoner consumes at least N31,000 daily, and as high as N60,000 per day in some states in the USA.
The minister who was bemoaning the poor budgetary provisions to take care of the prisoners and correct them in the correctional facilities across the country, said the Nigeria economy is small to be compared to that of America which made daily upkeep on a prisoner there not only far higher than what are budgeted for similar purposes in Nigeria but also higher than the N30,000 minimum wage.
Aregbesola who made the comparison while responding to questions by members of the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Interior during budget defence session of the Ministry for the 2020 fiscal year, said.
“Comparing Nigeria with countries like America, Turkey and even Egypt as illustrated by some of the federal lawmakers will completely demoralised the morale of any concerned citizen but what we are sure of in the Ministry, is that we shall with the limited resources available make the best for the country.
“At the Federal Executive Council level where the budget is being defended now, it was to be planned by way of inputs from various Ministers; I kept quiet after listening to the Minister of Finance on the challenges and constraints facing the economy.
“One of such challenges is the paucity of fund which has made the Ministry of Interior unable to pay for forty fire trucks manufactured for the country by Turkey since 18 months ago “, he said.
He however assured the committee members that the Nigerian Prisons will not be allowed to degenerate to concentration camps in line with the new name of correctional service given to it.
“We are engaging the governors because there is no other way to do it than to work with them. We are working with the Ministry of Justice which already has a committee in place for decongestion of prisons.
“We are also planning a meeting with the Nigerian Governors Forum in order to sensitize them on what they should do to make sure that aspect of criminal justice administration is not neglected.
“There will be serious problems if all of us failed to come together to resolve it. No sane person will want to administer or be in charge of a concentration camp in this time and age because of the problems faced by those who last operated a concentration camp. No one will in any way be connected with concentration camp. We are all concerned.
“I have said it in general terms but I will be more specific now. We will think out of the box. Nothing can be done by limiting ourselves to what is available but much can be done by being creative , innovative and very prudent in the management of scarce resources”, he explained .
Aregbesola’s submissions were triggered by comments made by a member of the Committee, Senator Chukwuka Utazi (PDP Enugu North) on the sorry state of prisons across the country.
Utazi in his comments said there were fundamental issues which the minister must attend to, as regards inhabitability status of the prisons.
According to him, the prisons are over congested to the point that not only are prisoners , sleeping in turns but their daily ration life threatening which cannot in anyway come out as sane citizens .
“Since our justice system is not helping, the Minister should use his passion to help us get a good feeding allowance for the prisoners, what we give to our prisoners in Nigeria is not acceptable anywhere.
“We also need to address the issue of prison expansion. Most of the prisons in Nigeria were built by colonial administration. Please start thinking of what should be done to address the problems”, he said.