The Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) has described the allegation that some of its officials are in the habit of arranging for convicts to evade serving terms as wild, unsubstantiated, unpatriotic and most unfortunate.
This is contained in a statement by the Service Public Relations Officer (SPRO), Mr Francis Enobore, on Sunday in Abuja.
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), alleged that some officials of the NCoS allow criminals to escape court verdicts by getting young men to serve jail terms for criminals.
Enobore said that what was more worrisome was a growing consistency by the author to vilify the NCoS without a just course.
He recalled that in February 2021, the author alleged that a high-profile inmate who was on remand in the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kaduna, contracted COVID-19 in custody.
He also recalled that the alarm which insinuated that inmates were kept in squalor and exposed to debilitating health conditions, triggered condemnation from various quarters.
According to him, subsequently, an independent COVID-19 test by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in conjunction with the personal physician of the then inmate was conducted.
“The result came negative without a trace of the disease in her system.
“Now the alarm is being raised over hearsay arrangements to keep in custody, persons other than those legally convicted, yet no name of persons or custodial centre is mentioned.
“The Service is compelled to respond to the allegation in order to correct the wrong impression and prevent disaffection the information is capable of creating in the mind of Nigerians.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the process of admitting persons into custody begins with the court where the warrant is issued stating the particulars of the person concerned.
At the designated custodial centre, the personal details are confirmed by the superintending officer before further biometrics, including photographs, are taken,” he said.
Enobore said that on routine visits by the Controller in charge of the state, the inmates and their corresponding documents are checked.
He said that the Zonal Coordinator conducts his mandatory custodial centre inspection during which these information and general supervision of the yard is carried out.
“The Controller-General, on his own, carries out unscheduled visits to any custodial centre and prisoners’ records are checked.
“Moreover, Judges, lawyers, statutory custodial visitors, inmates’ relations, religious groups, civil society organisations and host of other visitors regularly interface with the inmates.
“And it is expected that where such incident is observed, an alarm is raised for appropriate action to be taken,” he added.
Enobore said particularly intriguing in the scenario was the fact that the author is a public figure like many other distinguished Nigerians that could not be denied access to any custodial centre in the country upon request for a genuine course.
“One therefore wonders why he would resort to wild statement rather than identify a particular culprit with proof of his allegation as would be expected of a patriot,” he said.
The NCoS spokesperson said Controller-General Haliru Nababa, is irrevocably committed to the good course of inmates’ care and support to make the society better.
Nababa said that recent commendable performances of the inmates in both academic and vocational skills acquisition bear eloquent testimonials to this positive trajectory.
He solicited for constructive engagements and contributions from well-meaning Nigerians towards improving custodial management in the country.
The Controller General assured of his unwavering determination to put the Service on a higher pedestal.