By Saheed Ibrahim
The current conditions of the nation’s Correctional Centres, particularly, the Olokuta Correctional Centre in Ondo State are in horrible state, The Hope investigation has revealed.
Our correspondent, who investigated the correctional centre for eight months, gathered that billions of naira released for the correctional centres does not in any way reflect going by the decadent facilities and the living condition of inmates.
On July 31, 2019, the Nigerian Prisons Service was changed to Nigerian Correctional Service.
The change was purely in nomenclature as the centers cannot stimulate the rehabilitation of inmates, but rather, harden them.
The Hope gathered that the workshop meant to instil vocational skills in the inmates is grossly inadequate, almost empty and lack required facilities.
The Hope also found out that drugs abuse permeates the centre and corrections officers are not motivated to do diligent job.
Further investigation showed that the custodial centre basically relies on Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and churches for interventions to train inmates in vocational skills.
It was equally gathered that the Olokuta centre, designed to house about 270 inmates, currently houses over 800, with stench and terrible living condition.
Warders, who spoke with The Hope on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak stressed that Olokuta correctional centre cannot correct inmates.
The officer said the centre is “not correct because right from the top (Headquarters), things are not correct,” lamenting that officers in charge of the centre are poorly remunerated and not motivated to work.
“There is someone in my department that has done promotional exams five times but no promotion yet. Imagine officers earning N38,000 monthly when a bag of rice is about N50,000.
“We must carry gun from morning till night but what do we have to show for it? We that are to rehabilitate the prisoners are not motivated in anyway. Imagine officers in level 10-13 cannot afford a car.”
He added, “We are supposed to get new uniforms and other resources every six months, but I have only received that twice in my over 10 years in service. All these are in the yearly budget but will not be given to officers.
Aside from inadequate manpower, he said officers in charge of rehabilitating inmates do not have the required skills.
Another officer, ‘Kunle’, not real name said vocational training at the custodial home is ‘zero’ as there are no tools to train inmates.
He, just like other officers confirmed that inmates train themselves at the workshop while officers handle little aspect of the training.
Former inmates at the custodial home described their experience as harrowing and ‘unpleasant’.
Legal practitioners in Ondo State, such as Ibukun Fasanmi, A.V. Ajayi and Toun Yinusa could not find what is really correctional about the Olokuta correctional centre.
Speaking with The Hope, the Controller of Corrections, Ondo State Command, Jude Agboje, said, “the government has been trying and I know they are still doing a lot to improve the situation through the service.”
Agboje claimed that the custodial home has become more relaxed, ever since the paradigm shift from prison to correctional home.
While stressing that the facility is seeing to its responsibility of reforming, rehabilitating and reintegrating inmates, his response to rating Olokuta correctional centre in terms of financing, personnel and logistics, was, “the government has been trying and I know they are still doing a lot to improve the situation through the service.”
He, however, appealed to NGOs and well-meaning Nigerians to come to the aid of service in rehabilitating inmates, confirming what our investigation revealed.