By Michael Olugbode
Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has declared Nigeria’s correctional centres all over the country a red zone area that no one should have the temerity to attack.
He said no one that attacks the correctional centres should live to regret it, calling on the squadron commanders to use their weapon and authority to ward off attacks.
Addressing Squadron Commanders of the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) in Abuja on Friday, the minister said they would be held responsible henceforth for any attack on correctional centres (prisons) in the country, insisting that they are culpable for recent attacks on the facilities under their watch.
Aregbesola, who said the meeting with the squadron commanders was very important considering the security challenges the nation was facing, said correctional facilities was key to the legal system of any nation and was created to keep the society from being endangered by the people that had been declared unfit to work free in a civilized society.
He said: “It is not in dispute that attempts are always made to compromise the integrity of the custodial centres – from within or without or simultaneously. This ranges from the mild to the very serious, with varying degrees of success,” but declared that this cannot be tolerated.
The Minister lamented that: “Earlier this month, there was an attack, the worst of its kind, on the Owerri custodial centre. During the #ENDSARS riots of late last year, there were coordinated attacks on custodial centres in Edo State, while an unsuccessful attempt was made in Lagos.”
He said: “It should be clear that a pattern of attack on custodial centres is emerging, in which the current security challenges are being used to stage attacks on our facilities.”
The minister, who commended the squadron commanders for their professionalism, diligence and sacrifice in the performance of their duty which have upheld the integrity of the custodial centres, however said their “job is like that of a goalkeeper. The saves he made are hardly reckoned with, but the shots that sailed past him into the net are the issues counted against him. I am aware of the yeoman’s job you are doing in foiling attacks on our institutions, even as the outcry grows on the recent cases of jailbreaks.”
He noted that custodial centres are integral to human civilisation, stressing that: “They are the heart and soul of the justice system. In the developmental process, not everyone will be well adjusted to society. Some are brought up in bad environments. There are those who will be morally challenged i.e., not knowing the difference between right and wrong. There are others who made mistakes. The common factor between them all is that they constitute danger to society and human civilisation.”
He said: “Take for instance serial murderers or armed robbers. Their presence in human society, mingling unfettered with others, constitutes grave risks to lives and property. They will bring chaos and disorder, recreating Thomas Hobbes’ mythical state of nature where the ‘life of man is solitary, nasty, brutish and short’. No normal person will want to be part of that madness.”
He explained that: “This is why civilised human society devised a holding system where offenders can be legally and securely confined, separated from the rest of society. The primary reason for holding criminals therefore is to put them in a condition where they would not be able to menace society and therefore keep society safe from them. Order and balance will be restored when criminals are put in lawful custody, whenever a crime is committed.
“The second, and not less important, stems from the notion that humans are capable of being good and therefore, subject to reformation at the right environment, they can be reset to factory setting through conscious reformation. This, of course, is why our agency is now formally called correctional institution. Nevertheless, these two ideas undergird the correctional institution.”
He said: “Depending on the severity of offence, jail terms vary. A lot, if not most are on short term, others are on long term, while some are going to spend the rest of their lives in a facility. Some others are waiting to be executed. It is absolutely necessary for all of them to complete their term or be kept in custody as stipulated.”
The Minister noted that this is the foundation on which societal justice is built, stating that “grave and incalculable harm will be done to society if this foundation slips. The entire edifice will come crashing down, with dire consequences for all.”
He noted that: “We are already seeing some of these. Some of the escaped inmates from Edo have been arrested for committing murder and other crimes. One in particular went after those who provided the witness for his conviction.”
He said: “The custodial facilities are a symbol of the authority of the Nigerian State. They are sacred and inviolable institutions. You will notice that they are usually built around military fortresses, to show how important they are. This is to deter would-be attackers from inside or outside. More importantly, you are armed and positioned to directly guard them and defend their integrity.
“Your mission is to defend the facilities at all cost. Let me repeat again, defend them at all cost.”
He added that: “You are empowered by the highest authority in the land to use every means necessary to defend the custodial centres against internal and external aggression. The weapons you carry and the instrument you have are to be lawfully deployed for maximum effect, in protecting the facilities. Anyone or group of persons that decide(s) to attack them should not live to regret it. You must not fail because failure means you have contributed to the insecurity in the land by allowing criminals to invade society.”
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