*Donation include computers, phones, others
The Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) with the support of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) on Wednesday donated computers, mobile phones and other items worth over N25 million to the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCoS) to facilitate virtual visititation and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 in custodial centres across the country.
Other Personal Protective Equipmen (PPEs) donated are 50,000 pieces of face masks and 1,000 face shields for the protection of inmates and correctional officers; 47 spraying cans for disinfection of custodial centres; pedal operated water tanks for handwashing; posters and flyers with covid-19 messages.
Dr. Uju Agomoh, Executive Director, PRAWA, speaking during the formal donation of the items at the NCS headquarters in Abuja, said the computers will provide a virtual platform for inmates to interact with their families and lawyers.
Agomoh said the initiative will run as pilot in 17 correctional facilities across the country especially in facilities with high number of awaiting trial inmates such as Lagos, Abia, Rivers, Kano, Owerri and the FCT, to ameliorate the plight of inmates occasioned by the COVID-19 restrictions in the centres.
To cushion the burden of cost, the executive director said PRAWA will provide 6 months internet free connectivity to the correctional centres where the technology will be deployed.
She disclosed that the comptroller General of the service has promised that the service will take over the maintenance and payment for internet connectivity, after the 6 months.
Agomoh further noted that all face masks and hand washing facilities donated were produced to the highest standard by the industry unit of the Nigeria correctional service.
She therefore called on government private sector and all Nigerians to patronise the unit. This, according to her will will make inmates full reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration and resettlement much easy.
A representative of OSIWA described the intervention as urgent because the Nigerian Correctional Centers are known for its overcrowded cells, high inmate population often exceeding the official capacities of these facilities, high number of awaiting trial persons, high number of petty and minor offender- many of whom are poor and vulnerable.
She noted that majority of petty offenders we find today who are being held are either awaiting trial or convicted and are at higher risk of contacting the coronavirus disease, hence the innitiative.
The Comptroller-General, Nigerian Correctional Services (NCS), Ja’ afaru Ahmed, while taking delivery of the materials , said the donations will enable the service further consolidate on the gains that have already been achieved in the service
The comptroller announced that there was no case of Covid-19 across all custodial centres in the country, despite the crowded state of the centres as well as wide fears and anticipations if it being worst hit.
Ahmed stated that the feat is huge for Nigeria because no other country has achieved the record since the outbreak of the pandemic.
He assured that this items will be judiciously used by all personnel and the inmates too maintain the feat.
“Since the coming of Covid 19 in Nigeria, there was apprehension over our custodial centres, on it being affected. I am happy to announce that there is no covid-19 recorded in any of our custodial centres, this feat that no country has recorded.
Some of the measures put in place to achieve the feat according to him are; are, stopping the admission of inmates, visitation and other hygeine measures.
He however informed that admissions has been restored in the various custodial centres and over 9900 have been admitted.
He also informed that states are cooperating on the guidelines provided for reopening, but only 8 states are yet to put the guidelines in place to begin admissions and are hesitant to take inmates.
“The guidelines are not difficult, any inmate for admission must carry out a COVID 19 test, then put on isolation for two weeks, after which another test is carried out, if negative,then he can be put in the general population of that custodial centre.
“But, where he tests negative, it is mandatory for the state Committe to take him to the isolation centres and that is why some states are hesitant to take inmates”, he said.
Ahmed said the items will enable the service further consolidate on the gains that have already been achieved of not recording any covid-19 case.
“I want to assure you that this items will be judiciously used by all personnel and the inmates”, he added.
Ahmed further called for support for the implementation Nigeria correctional services Act to efficiently decongest custodial centres through Non-Custodial sentencing.
According to him, 19 Over 20,000 were git to non -custodial sentence during the COVID-19 lockdown.