By Ngozi Nwankwo
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, Country Office Nigeria, CONIG, with its partners, the Nigerian Correctional Service, NCoS, and the United States Embassy and U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, INL, have marked the official launch of the project: ‘Strengthening the Capacity of the Nigerian Correctional Service in the North-Eastern States.”
The UNODC applauded the project, saying that it is apt and timely especially with the 71percent of an overall prison population of 71,584 being inmates who are awaiting trial and the reported rise in violent crime across Nigeria.
Enumerating the importance of the project, the UNODC Country Representative to Nigeria, Oliver Stolpe said, the 3-year project, which is funded by INL, aims to assist the NCoS in building sustainable capacities in selected main facilities in the North East to ensure safe, secure and humane custody, taking particular account of the special situation of pre-trial detainees and the need to enhance the provision of rehabilitation and/or social reintegration support for all prisoners.
According to him, in light of its geographical focus, the project will encompass detainees and prisoners held for an (alleged) association with Boko Haram and include tailored interventions for this particular category. By doing so, the project will build on the extensive experience and tools which UNODC has developed over decades to assist countries in managing their prisons systems in line with international standards and norms.
“Building sustainable rehabilitation and reintegration capacities of the NCoS, and with regards to the management of VEPs, will ultimately ensure that inmates are treated in line with their human dignity, and can support themselves self-sufficiently upon release, thereby reducing recidivism and the risk of Boko Haram and professional criminals of recruiting new followers from amongst the (former) prison population.
“Genuine efforts have already been made by the Nigerian Government and the NCoS to meet the Nelson Mandela Rules, particularly through the passage of an early effort to implement the Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019. With the support of the Presidential Committee on Corrections Reforms and Decongestion as well as state Attorneys General and Chief Judges, the NCoS was able to successfully present the cases of roughly 3,000 inmates for release in a bid to decongest the prisons in the wake of the COVID19 pandemic.
“The service, under the leadership of the Controller -General of Correctional Service, Haliru Nababa has strengthened partnerships with international partners such as the UNODC with the aim of adopting best global practices in a way that only shares ideas and experiences,” he said.
In his welcome address, the Controller General of Corrections stated that it was his ‘firm belief that, like every other intervention the NCoS has enjoyed from both UNODC and INL, this project will go a long way in aiding significant value to the operations and administration of the Correctional Service’.
Nigerian Pilot gathered that the project aligns with the 2021 United Nations Common Position on Incarceration which at the global level aims at: shifting policies towards prevention and non-custodial measures, improving prison conditions and strengthening prison management, and advancing the rehabilitation and social reintegration of offenders.
In Nigeria, UNODC seeks to translate these broad objectives into concrete actions aimed at improving the welfare, rehabilitations and reintegration of prisoners.