President Muhammadu Buhari is spending N22.44 billion in 2023 on feeding 75,507 inmates in prisons nationwide. An official disclosed this on Thursday in Abuja.
The inmates are spread in 244 jails nationwide, the permanent secretary of the interior ministry, Shuaib Belgore, said during a high-level conference on corrections and decongestion of prisons.
Mr Belgore said that 70 per cent of the inmates were awaiting trial. He attributed the high number of awaiting trial inmates to arbitrary arrests, delay in dispensing justice and inability to meet bail conditions.
The permanent secretary said the situation led to the congestion of 82 prisons across the country.
“The total number of male inmates is 73,821, and 1,686 are female inmates. Out of the 75,507 inmates, 52,436 are awaiting trial, while 23,071 are convicted persons, with 3,322 as condemned inmates on death row. The federal government budgeted N22.44 billion in the 2023 appropriation to cater for the feeding of inmates,” said the permanent secretary. “Failure to take action to decongest the custodial centres will come at a cost.”
According to the interior ministry chief, prison overcrowding has led to a huge revenue drain for the regime, including the dilapidation of prisons, criminalisation of society and the inability to separate awaiting trial inmates from convicted ones.
Mr Belgore said there was a need for holistic reform of the country’s correction system, including modernising custodial centres for appropriate reformation and rehabilitation of inmates. He said stakeholders have since emphasised the need to build new facilities and redesign the bail system.
“I am of the view that the discourse at this conference should allocate more time to address speedy dispensation of justice to reduce the number of inmates awaiting trial. Inasmuch as the ministry of interior works tirelessly to accomplish the goal of achieving a greater reduction of the number of inmates across our custodial centres, we are determined to ensure that the correctional facilities provide not just a decent accommodation,” the official explained.
Mr Belgore added, “We also ensure that inmates acquire skills and knowledge to advance their integration into society when they eventually regain freedom.”