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Minister of Interior, Mr. Patrick Abba Moro

 

 

* Lawmakers want states to build own prisons

 

 

By Ike Abonyi and Tobi Soniyi

 

The United States Government is to assist Nigeria with surveillance equipment to help man the country’s porous borders and help check the influx of illegal migrants.

This is one of the measures being put in place to help curb the challenge of insecurity in the country which is being aggravated by the uncontrolled influx of illegal migrants into the country.

The Minister of Interior, Mr. Patrick Abba Moro, who disclosed this at a media forum in Abuja Thursday, also announced that over 19,000 illegal immigrants had been deported from the country since the deadly activities of the Boko Haram insurgents became rampant.

The minister, who expressed regrets that there was no accurate data on the number of illegal immigrants in the country, blamed the situation on the porous nature of the country’s borders and the wrong interpretation of the ECOWAS travel policy.

Moro is hopeful that with the equipment being offered by the US, the insurgent activities of the illegal immigrants would be curtailed.

According to him, “19,000 illegal immigrants have been sent out of the country by the appropriate authorities under the ministry. Although I must tell you that there is no accurate figure of illegal immigrants in our country due to the porosity of our borders and the wrongful interpretation of the ECOWAS Act.

“On the cost of implementation of the surveillance equipment on our borders, we are in the process of certifying one of those that can be awarded. It is within the region of $2.6 million and it was tendered by a Chinese firm.

“But that money may drastically reduce as the United States Government is also in touch with us in fighting terror and the US government has offered to provide some surveillance equipment which we will deploy to the borders.”

On the danger posed by prison congestion in the country, the minister explained that if the National Assembly accepts the ministry request to change some sections of the Prison Act, the problem of congestion should reduce substantially.

He also said the prison service had been able to reform some of the inmates in spite of the huge challenges the authorities have had to grapple with daily.

“The resurgence of insurgents has led to some jail breaks across the country.  But there are positives. As I speak with you now, about 50 inmates are attending the National Open University; 90 are writing WAEC; 690 rehabilitated after serving their terms; 109 trained in vocational skills and 145 trade-tested in artisanship.”

Speaking on female inmates the minister said their population is relatively low compared to the men but lamented the dilemma government faces in handling some female cases like those who came into the prison with pregnancy and when they deliver their babies, government cannot release them and cannot take away their baby from them.

He also condemned the reported clash between men of the civil defence corps and the police, noting that President Goodluck Jonathan had intervened on the matter  but that a ministerial level he and his Police Affairs counterpart had taken steps to ensure that the two security agencies see themselves as working for the same purpose and should see each other’s work as complimentary.

“It is unfortunate that the civil defence and the police should clash in the first place. For whatever reason that that incident occurred, it is very unfortunate. But Mr. President has intervened and we have all agreed that such a thing should not happen again.”

On the frequent deadly clashes  involving Fulani herdsmen and farmers, Moro said the government is on the verge of creating “separate routes and grazing grounds for Fulani herdsmen. If they keep to that, I hope that would stem the tide.”

He also disclosed that the government had finalised plans to construct 227 fire service stations across the country and equip them with modern fire-fighting equipment in order to meet the needs of Nigerians.

The minister also spoke on the job scam that recorded most of the agencies in his ministry saying that no staff of the ministry was involved rather some unscrupulous persons opened a website and started defrauding unsuspecting members of the public. He disclosed that some of them have been prosecuted and jailed.

The minister offered automatic employment and utmost confidentiality to any victim who can come to disclose those especially staff of the ministry and their agencies who collected money for job from them.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly has said the prison service will be transferred to concurrent legislative list to allow states  to build and maintain their own prisons in order to cater for convicted persons in their states.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Umaru Dahiru who disclosed this in Abuja Thursday said under the new measure, states would be able to build their own prisons without any recourse to the federal government.

Under the new prison system being proposed by the National Assembly, the prison service would be removed from the exclusive list to the concurrent list.

At present  the federal government is the only authority  responsible for building and maintaining prisons across the country.

Senator Dahiru who spoke at the Stakeholders Validation Meeting on the National Human Rights Commission 2012 Prison Audit Report said that the action of the National Assembly was informed by the unending public outcry against the deplorable conditions of the existing prisons in the country.

He expressed optimism that with the new move, the unpalatable conditions of prisons, prisoners and congestion in the country would be greatly ameliorated.

Dahiru appealed to states to take up the new challenge by  building modern  prisons in their states.

Presenting the 2012 prison Audit Report to the general public, the Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Professor Bem Angwe said that Nigeria had over 53,000 inmates in the existing prisons in the country.

He lamented that out of the 53,000 inmates, over 36,000 were awaiting trial. This he said, was largely responsible for the high congestion of prisons in the country.

Besides, Angwe disclosed that 672 lunatics who had spent over 40 years were languishing in the prisons and appealed that pro active approach be adopted in order to sanitize the prison system.

As part of measures to remedy the anomaly, the NHRC Executive Secretary hinted that his organization would soon institute court actions against some states in order to enforce the rights of Nigerians unjustly clamped into the prisons.

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