By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade has called for an overhaul of the Nigerian Prison System to position as a government parastatal that drives reformation and productivity.
Governor Ayade made the call, Tuesday in Calabar, the state capital while hosting the state controller of the Nigerian Prison Service, NPS, Mr. Imaikop Ndaekong,where he said the country should borrow a leaf from the prison system of the United States which according to him drives productivity.
“There is an urgent need for the reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration process. Unfortunately these processes which is a natural sociological pathway towards reformation now comes with the challenge of funding,” Ayade said and explained why the Nigerian system should be modeled after that of the United States.
He said that: “Let me digress a little bit to the US experience. In America, Prison service is the hottest business. Any remote part of America that they want development to move in, they set up a prison.
Ayade who likened the American system to a hotel business continued: “As you send a prisoner to the prison, government pays his monthly bed rate, his hotel bill and his feeding and his toiletries. So there is a fixed amount being paid by the US government to each prisons. Each prisoner has a fee.
“And so, everybody becomes desperate to set up a prison yard because it is on the basis of that prison that there is demand for food, demand for toiletries, productivity will go up, consumption will go up and employment will rise and so wherever there is unemployment in the US, any villageous setting that has unemployment, they introduce prison systems.”
Governor Ayade averred that the system afforded the inmates the opportunity to learn a trade and hoped that it will be replicated in Nigeria which according to him: “is our dream of what the prison should be. It should really be a reformation center; a place where people go for reformation and really get integrated properly.”
However, Ayade who had described the statistics of inmates presented by Mr. Imaikopp as “scary and worrisome,” said the state will review all awaiting trial cases with a view to exercising the powers of prerogative of mercy to the innocent.
Earlier, Mr. Imaikopp who commended the state government’s support for the service said that there are six formations across the state which were operating above capacity.
“Calabar prisons as at this morning locked up to 842 inmates as against capacity of 450 and covers 7 local government areas. The poor scenario is applicable to all the prisons in Cross River State where each of the prisons covers at least 2 to 3 local government areas a day,” Mr. Imaikopp said and sought the state’s support in the provision of ambulances, transport vehicles, inclusion in the state security council and tools to teach inmates basic skills to fulfill its mandate.
He also disclosed that a total of 854 out of 1,160 inmates opened out for Tuesday were on awaiting trial while 254 were convicted with 46 condemned.
Of this number, 32.7 percent were charged for murder, 27.7 percent for armed robbery, 8.9 percent for ordinary robbery, 5 percent for unlawful possession of firearms, 20.2 percent for ordinary stealing, 4.3 percent for assault and 1.2 percent for other offences Mr. Imaikopp said.
It was a busy day for the Governor who also received the Commander of the 305 Special Mobility Group of the Nigerian Air Force, Wing Commander Hussein Idris, the state commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, Commander Alero Usman and the Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC in the state, Corps Commander Chidiebere Nkwonta.
And, Governor Ayade charged them to effective in the discharge of their duties and fulfilled his pledge to provide logistic support through the provision of two utility vehicles to the NSCDC and FRSC.
The Governor called on the Air Force to increase its aerial surveillance in the state especially as the commencement in the construction work of the signature projects of his administration.
“The construction of the Bakassi deep seaport and the evacuation corridor which is about 275 kilometers stretching from Bakassi to Gakem of Bekwarra local government of northern Cross River sharing a direct boundary with Benue state is an area that will come under rtour very critical purview.
“Our wish is that you must find a way, in collaboration with the state government to maintain a regular overflight over these two specific projects,” Ayade said, adding that with over 50 expatriates expected, the commander should “find means to ensure this your ATR 42 is based here in Calabar.”
Commander Idris whom had said that he keyed into the state’s security architecture as soon as he resumed in August, disclosed that: “The ATF 42 maritime patrol aircraft and some other platforms have been conducting surveillance.”
He assured that the Air Force will: “constantly conduct air surveillance using the Nigerian Air Force helicopters,” adding that: “Being a helicopter pilot, I already flew once over the state during the start of the exercise crocodile smile 2 last week and have marked out areas of interest.”
The NSCDC Commandant, Commander Usman lauded Governor Ayade strides in ensuring the state is secured especially with the launching of Operation Skolombo and solicited for more synergy between the command and the state government.
He commended the state for providing land for the construction of the state command as well as a training school of the NSCDC in Calabar and sought for more operational vehicles which Governor Ayade who commended the forthrightness of personnel of the NSCDC announced that they will get one.
Corps Commander Nkwonta in his remarks said that under his watch road crashes have dropped by 61 percent due to a combination of strategies that were geared towards improving public consciousness and sued for more synergy between the state traffic regulation agencies and the corps through the streamlining of the agencies for effectiveness.
“Between January and June this year, we recorded 44 crashes involving 21 deaths and 123 injured persons and from July to date, we have recorded 8 deaths and 36 injured,” Nkwonta said.
On the synergy with state traffic regulation agencies, Mr. Nkwonta averred that: “It would have been better if the state traffic agencies are brought under one umbrella for better control and efficiency. To this effect, we had promised to make the Model Motor Vehicle Administration law available to the State House of Assembly for domestication.”
In his remarks, Governor Ayade announced that the state will soon commence the total rehabilitation of roads across the state and charged the corps to ensure that a near zero crash record was achieved between now and December 31.
“The crash statistics you have given if not suppressed looks very impressive. It is an indicant that truly you have come with true change because we have begun to see that the statistics are going down,” he said.
Ayade continued: “I want to challenge you, I don’t want to lose any Cross Riverians or any road user for that matter. While you have made your request, I will grant them to the extent that my good conscience permits that I also want to set a new target for you.
“Between now and Christmas, I don’t want to have more than 2 crashes in Cross River State and no life lost. No shed of blood occasioned by the massive rush for Christmas as this will be a great value you will be bringing because for the first time we are going to be having a Christmas where no family is in tears or sorrows.”