By Bukola Olasanmi
President Muhammadu Buhari has signed a bill into law changing the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) to Nigerian Correctional Service.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, briefed State House correspondents on Wednesday.
According to him, the Correctional Service is made up of Custodial and Non Custodial Service.
He said that the Non-Custodial Service was intended to be a place of reformation and that the person sentenced under this will not stay in custody but will have remediation.
The President, he said, has also signed Federal Universities of Agriculture (Amendment No.2) Act, 2019.
On the Nigerian Correctional Service Bill, 2019, he said “This Act repeals the Prisons Acts and changes the name from Nigeria Prisons Service to Nigerian Correctional Service, otherwise known as “the Correctional Service.”
“There are, according to the Act, two main faculties of the Correctional Service, namely:
(a) Custodial Service
(b) Non-custodial Service
“The Custodial Service is to: (a) custody and take control of persons legally interned in safe, secure and humane conditions. (b) Conveying remand persons to and from courts in motorized formations;
“(c) Identifying the existence and causes of anti-social behaviours of inmates (d) Conducting risk and needs assessment aimed at developing appropriate correctional treatment methods for reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration;
“(e) Implementing reformation and rehabilitation programmes to enhance the reintegration of inmates back into the society
(f) Initiating behavior modification in inmates through the provision of medical, psychological, spiritual and counseling services for all offenders including violent extremists
“(g) empowering inmates through the deployment of educational and vocational skills training programmes, and facilitating incentives and income generation through Custodial Centres, farms and industries
“(h) Administering borstal and related institutions;
(I) Providing support to facilitate the speedy disposal of cases of persons awaiting trial;”
He said that the Act in Section 12 (2) (c), further stated “that where an inmate sentenced to death has exhausted all legal procedures for appeal and a period of 10 years has elapsed without execution of the sentence, the Chief Judge may commute the sentence of death to life imprisonment.”
According to him, Section 12 (8) empowers the state Controller of the Service to reject more intakes of inmates where it is apparent that the correctional centre in question is filled to capacity.
The Presidential Aide said that non-custodial faculty of the Correctional Service is responsible for the administration of non-custodial measures, namely: Community Service, probation, parole, restorative justice measures and such other measures as a court of competent jurisdiction may order.
He said “Restorative Justice measure approved in the Act include victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing, community mediation and other conciliatory measures as may be deemed necessary pre-trial, trial during imprisonment or even post- imprisonment stages.” he said
Asked the guarantee that the prisoner will get what is due to him, he said “Because the law has stated that the money will be divided into three places, the person who produces will take one third, the prisoner will take one third and the last third will go to consolidated revenue fund of the federation.”
Also speaking on the Prison database, he said “The thing is when you enter, your particulars are registered in the prison system. The database cannot be faulted because it has your finger prints and your other particulars.
‘The essence of the bill is to ensure there is enough funding for the service that will take care of the welfare of the inmates and workers. So any alleged corrupt practices in terms of ration will be eliminated. The Act also provides that the service retains a percentage of what they generate in addition to budgetary provision to work with, so corrupt practices will be eliminated.”
According to him, the question of overcrowding has been addressed by the new Act.
He said “The correctional service officer is to notify the authorities in the state or the Federal capital, the attorney general, the chief judge of the state that there is an overcrowding in the prison and he is not to take in any other inmate.
“The essence of notification is to ensure that if there are persons that are to have expeditious trial or if they are awaiting trial inmates due to laxity of the magistrate or overcrowding of the magistrate court, they can send an emergency team to decongest the prison by way …. of persons awaiting trial or transfer awaiting intimate to correctional facilities.
“The essence of the bill is to keep the intimates in human conditions within the carrying capacity of the prisons.” he said.
On the second bill signed into law by the President, he said that the Act amends the Federal Universities of Agriculture Act, Cap. F22, Law of the Federation of Nigeria to change the name of the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi in Benue State to Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, Makurdi.
Asked how long the President can assent to bills that were passed by the 8th National Assembly that was dissolved on June 8th, 2019, he said “When a bill is passed it goes through a process from National Assembly management, particularly the legal department of the office of the Clerk to National Assembly. The time of Mr. President begins to run from the date that the bills are transmitted to him.
“The time doesn’t begin to run from the dates the bills were passed. It is 30 days from the date when the bill was transmitted to him.” he said
Speaking specifically on the two new Acts, he said “This bill was transmitted to him on July 20th and was assented to in August, so Mr. President signed within the 30 days period.”
Enang added “After bills are passed by the legislature, there are still other processes of assembling which the Clerk of the assembly undertakes before he forwards to us.
“I believe these are one of the few bills remaining, I won’t say another will not come.” he said