Thursday 9 December 2021

Recurring jailbreaks and leadership inadequacy........ By Adebayo Adedeji

On November 17, the Kenyan leader, Uhuru Kenyatta, fired the country's prison chief, Wycliffe Ogalo, over terrorist jailbreak. He did not entertain any excuse. He was tired of such excuses. He only wanted results. And he felt sacking the appointees who failed to discharge their responsibilities was the first step in seeking solution bedevelling the country's prison management.

Alike in Nigeria, on 6th December 2014 when a jailbreak was recorded, the Niger controller of Prisons was sacked and all other officers on duty that day was suspended by Abba Moro, the then Minister of Interior. Again, in the wake of incessant escape of inmates from some prisons in the country , the Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prisons Service Board (CDFIPB), on August 16, 2016,  approved the dismissal of 23 prisons officers and suspension of 11  for their complicity in the escape of prisoners from prisons in their care. That was the period General Abdulrahman Dambazau was the Minister of Interior. 

But today, under the headership of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, there seems to be no end in sight regarding the incessant jailbreaks which have now become a sort of embarrassment to the country. Notwithstanding the telltale evidences of operational lapses in the country's prisons, the leadership of these prisons continue to offer excuses to shield their lapses so as to save their jobs. There is no available data to suggest an officer of the Nigerian Correctional Service, in recent time, has been reprimanded over jailbreak. The only information available was that of dismissal of three officials for smuggling cannabis into the Kaduna Central Prison!

Since 2010, the correctional centres have received over N700 billion in allocation. In the last 2 years alone, under the leadership of Aregbesola, the centre has received over N100 billion without anything to show for it. Overcrowding has often been cited as the justification for jailbreaks. But beyond overcrowding, what is the  prison authority doing about poor prison facilities, inadequate security features like CCTV, motion sensors and high electric fences? How is the huge allocation voted for the agency spent? Right questions must be asked because the correctional facilities are daily subjected to unrestrained attacks.

 In the last one year alone, there have been 15 incidents of jailbreaks across the country where 5,238 inmates have escaped. Of the number, over 4,000 of the escaped inmates have not been found. The situation is worrisome; therefore, it behooves on all patriots to come to the rescue. The impact of the frequent jailbreak on our fragile security situation is enormous because more criminals, now out of custody, will be available to perpetuate heinous crime.

In the light of the above, many citizens have called for actions from relevant authorities to stem the tide because one jailbreak motivates another. In 2020, Nigeria's House of Representatives had scathing remarks for the leadership of the Nigerian Correctional Centre for failing to secure the prisons inspite huge resources voted to it. 

On its own part, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, Huriwa, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the prison chief, Haliru Nababa and the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, the political head of the agency. Huriwa describes the recurring attacks as grave threat to Nigeria's national security which requires the president pass a "resolutely firm message to his appointees that indiscipline, dereliction of duty and all forms of shows-of-shame would not be tolerated. "

Huriwa appeals to the President to demonstrate that he is a leader who would not tolerate half measures. The constant negative stories of jailbreak in Nigeria, according to the group, are capable of tarnishing the global image of the country, hence the appeal to the President to end the episodes of failures by his appointees in the prison sector.

Similarly, in his recent piece entitled "Aregbesola Has No Business Remaining in Office," Thisday newspaper's Yemi Adebowale writes that "Aregbesola has failed woefully in his critical role of protecting Nigeria's correctional centres. I can boldly say that this minister has failed because he is not focused on his job. He has been spending more time and resources on his Osun State politics where he runs parallel ward, local and state executives of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Aregbesola appears more concerned about this."

He further states that the minister has been misusing the personnel of the security agencies under his Ministry for political gains in Osun State rather than positioning them appropriately to secure the correctional centres. Adebowale refers to the HURIWA allegation against Aregbesola where the minister was said to have given express approval for the transfer and deployment of hundreds of civil defence officers to Osun " to protect personal building and provide security covers for persons fighting proxy political wars on his behalf."

The writer restates the call for immediate sack of Nababa and Aregbesola for their failure to give the needed leadership in the Nigerian Correctional Service. Unfortunately, the minister seems  unperturbed. Just yesterday, after a Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, multiple media sources quoted Aregbesola to have boasted not to ever  resign despite the rampant successful attacks on the nation's custodial facilities. He was reported to have said he and his men were doing their best, so the call for his resignation was mischievous and unneccesary. The supercilious reaction has, again, brought to fore the level of premium public office holders place on citizens' demand for accountability and quality stewardship. Nobody would have thought that a public officer with adequate emotional intelligence, found to be lacklustre in his assignment, would have such temerity to be haughty and placid as Minister Aregbesola was yesterday during the media interview. 

Regrettably, we will continue to widen the gulf of ineptitude in the system if we hold up to incompetence and indecorous conduct of politicians assigned to discharge key roles in government. Citizens must be resolute in their demand for sack of irresponsible and arrogant officials.

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