PROPONENTS OF SNC ARE ANARCHISTS -ABBA MORO
Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro has accused proponents of Sovereign National Conference of plotting to destabilize the country. 'I believe very sincerely, with due respect, that those involved in this type of agitation, don't mean well for this country. They are inviting chaos and confusion simply because they are not in position of power.'
He also bares his mind on efforts his ministry is making to reform the prison system as well as on the activities of Boko Haram sect.
How far has your ministry gone on the reformation of Nigerian prisons?
One of the biggest problems we have today in the prison system in Nigeria is the problem of prison congestion. It is sad to note that in our prisons that are supposed to take about 200 inmates take more than double that number. Prisons that are supposed to take up to 500 inmates take about 1000 inmates and so, generally, we have some level of congestion in our prisons, no doubt about it.
And what is partly responsible for that really, is that the justice system has been very slow that more than 72 per cent of our prison inmates are awaiting trial. That means that we have a preponderance of our inmates in the category of persons that don't have access to justice or trial. What we are trying to do now is to categorize our inmates. For instance, we have very many of our prison inmates who are there over minor crimes such as house breaking, theft of bicycles, goats and rams.
This constitutes a sizable number of people that are in the prisons today. I think ordinarily, people shouldn't stay in the prisons for a number of years that ordinarily are more than even the number of years they would have spent if they were convicted. And so, we are working in conjunction with the ministry of justice to see, after proper categorization, how such persons can be freed or made available for trials so that if they are convicted, they are convicted. If they are not convicted then of course, they are innocent and should be left off the hook.
But much more importantly, I think that the first step towards reforming the prison system is to ensure that we have adequate prisons that meet some level of international standard. And so, today, we are trying to revitalize the construction of some nine prisons that are part of the 47 prisons that have been initiated whose contracts have been awarded since 1981. Some of them including the Otukpo prison have been abandoned and have not started at all. And so we think if we complete the 47 prisons that would go a long way towards providing sufficient accommodation for our inmates.
In addition to that, we have already started moves to construct about six prisons for each of our geo-political zones in the country. This is intended primarily to take care of prisoners that are likely going to be transferred from European countries who have bilateral agreement with Nigeria on prison transfer. We believe that if we provide modern prisons that meet some level of international standard, our prisoners serving various terms in foreign countries would be encouraged to come and serve out the remaining terms of their jail sentences.
In addition to that, I have more than once reiterated to Nigerians and the world that the prison, ordinarily, is not supposed to be a punishment centre. The prison, ordinarily is supposed to be a correctional centre that is intended primarily to imbue in the inmates some level of skills and knowledge so that when they come out of the prison they can effectively and properly be integrated into the larger society. So, we are trying to make sure that in each of our prisons, we have some level of vocational centres with appropriate infrastructure and tools that can engender in this people a mind of getting into the larger society to be better citizens.
Outside that, we have had incidents of jail breaks and attempted jailbreaks and we believe this is a problem because in the larger society, we have the problem of lack of appropriate data on our inmates. We don't have adequate record of our inmates. We don't have adequate biometric record of our inmates such that if prison inmates escape it becomes absolutely difficult, if not impossible, to track them again and to know who an ex-prisoner or who an ex-convict had been. And so, we are trying to introduce some level of what I call electronic prisons in the sense that within our prison environment we should be able to put appropriate technology in place such that escaping from our prison would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. I think above all, what we will do on a holistic basis, is to sensitise Nigerians on the virtues of good living, to re-engineer our society to believe more in the virtue of hard work and determination and ensure the live useful lives instead of taking to crime.
One of the problems we are facing us in this country that we all know about is insecurity. The president comes out to say we are winning the war against Boko Haram and other security problems but Nigerians are skeptical because while the president says we are winning the war, bomb blasts are still going on, so are we really winning the war?
I think the President is the commander in chief of the armed forces of the federation. Mr. President is the chief security officer of Nigeria. I find it difficult to accept a situation where we ascribe every incident of bomb blast, suicide bombings and the to Boko Haram. When we talk about insecurity in Nigeria, Nigerians look readily in the direction of Boko Haram. I think that ordinarily Boko Haram has been given larger than life image in this country.
Of course, I know it is very convenient for the members of the Boko Haram to take responsibility for any act of bomb blast in the country. Having gone through 30-month civil war, you would expect that the left over of bombs and the rest of them can at times explode but of course, it is taken now that whenever we have explosions, it is Boko Haram. Having said that, I want to say that the indicators of winning this war against insecurity in the country are there.
Day in, day out, week in, week out, you hear of arrests of suspects. You also find that some of this people have also been arraigned in law courts. And whether we like it or not, the ferocity with which suicide bombing and bomb blast have taken in the recent time, especially with the bombing of the United Nations house and the headquarters of the Nigeria Police have definitely abated. I think that is the truth about it.
Only recently, the president closed part of our borders. He has declared state of emergency in some local governments in some flashpoint states. Only recently, I've also announced that the Nigeria Immigration Service is building plazas and the essence is that if we are able to effectively police our borders, then we will be able to direct our attention and energy to our irregular borders through which some of this criminally-minded people come into the country.
I think all in all, we must accept that government is doing quite a lot to ensure that we curb the incidence of internal insecurity. I know that the war is not over but I think that with the cooperation of all Nigerians, if we accept that security is the shared responsibility of everybody, if all Nigerians cooperate, share information with relevant law enforcement agencies we can get to where we want to go and that is ensuring internal security.