In spite of the prevailing financial challenges, the Federal Executive Council, FEC, on Wednesday approved the sum of N3.5 billion for the procurement of 320 operational vehicles to convey prison inmates to courts.
As part of efforts to de-congest the Nigerian Prisons, the government is aiming at reducing the population of prisoners which currently stands at 65,000 with 70 per cent of them awaiting trial largely due to lack of vehicles to convey them to court.
Briefing journalists after the Federal Executive Council meeting, Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, said the vehicles will be sourced from local manufacturers and assemblers within Nigeria, in line with government policy to promote made in Nigeria goods and create employment opportunities for the youth.
“For a very long time, the prison system has suffered due to lack of operational vehicles. And as such, quite a number of prisoners remain in prisons longer than necessary because they do not have the opportunity to be conveyed to the courts.”
The minister added that the essence of procuring the vehicles was to ensure that the prison authorities were well equipped to transport the inmates to 5,022 courts across the country.
The minister did not, however, give the breakdown of the type of vehicles to be bought and the unit cost of each.
Dambazau said the government was also working on strengthening the police in terms of investigations and alternative punitive measures “because if the cases are not properly investigated, that too can cause the delay of the trails.”
“We are trying to see how we can reduce the number of inmates awaiting trial. But the criminal Justice Act of 2015 has also made provision for alternative sentencing, otherwise known as non-custodian sentencing.”
“The courts can now use that to rather than sending the individual to prison, depending on the crime committed, apply other means of dealing with his case.”
“There is also an inter-ministerial committee looking at that issue of decongestion.”