By NBF News

This may sound quite unbelievable, but it is the truth. That 50 years after the country got independence, the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS), was still using guidelines inherited from the colonial masters to run the nation's prisons.

However, the Comptroller General (CG) Olusola Ogundipe, said time has come for the nation's prison system to be weaned of all trappings of colonialism. The NPS has secured modern guidelines on general administration and personnel operations.

The guidelines are contained in the new curriculum presented recently to the service by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), which would replace the colonial guidelines and form the basis for the training of its personnel throughout all its training schools and colleges.

The need for this change was not only long over due, but also imperative: 'It was at this point that our strategic collaboration with UNODC supported by the British High Commission became very timely. The UNODC had been a major stakeholder in the criminal justice sector as far back as 2005, and therefore they knew the gaps needed to be filled in the NPS as far as human capital development is concerned.

'It is in view of this that they decided to work with the NPS by initiating a review of the training curriculum of the service, designed to bring the officers and men of the service to appreciate current trends in prison management, with particular emphasis on human rights. This collaboration with us has led to the production of this training manual that we are celebrating today.'

One unique thing running throughout this new curriculum as Ogundipe pointed out, is the emphasis placed on human rights of prisoners, based on the United Nations standard minimum rules, as he said it would produce a 'workforce that will stand the challenges of modern trends in the corrections.' He said that the new curriculum has provisions for prisoners with special needs, vulnerable prisons, those living with HIV/AIDS amongst so many other areas that were lacking in the colonial manual.

Although the service was using the guidelines inherited from the colonial masters before taking delivery of this new curriculum, the CGP argued that all the operations of the service were based on modern trends, stressing that some provisions in the colonial guidelines that were still very useful were considered in the new curriculum:

'The training manual that we inherited from the colonial period, you find a manual where you are still talking about pounds, shilling and some other things like that. And therefore it is necessary that we update our manuals and actually it is not that we have not been operating according to international standards but we are updating what we have on ground now.

'When you talk about infringement on human rights you will not find it in the prisons but there are certain things that we must do in tandem with international standards. We are talking about the basic rights and entitlements of every prisoner, but we may not meet everything because of the conditions that we find ourselves in this part of the world, but we must strive to ensure that what we have, we are able to give it to them.'