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Change of Prison’s name under false federalism

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IT is incontrovertible to asseverate that as Nigeria stands today, no policy, no matter how adroitly or sweetly couched and coated to cover the principles of true federalism, will ever satisfy the deep yearnings and aspirations of the generality of the entire Nigerians. Nigerians going by the acute awareness and globalisation have come to regret what they have been losing by the false federalism imposed by the military junta and perpetrated by its apologists.

The consistent failure of policies hidden behind semantics to play down on the imperative of principles of federalism as observed the world over, amounts to the political leadership either to chose to be dishonest with itself or to vaingloriously gamble with the future of the citizenry who are eager to align themselves with the world that has become a global village. The self deceit or brazen dishonesty has to do with the persistent adherence to the pseudo federal system of government being apparently openly resisted by the people, even as they are not satisfied with the policies being churned out as solutions to the socio-economic challenges.

Critical observation has shown that the political leadership is fruitlessly trying to grapple with the stupendous and clearly unmanageable socio-economic and political problems threatening to drown the polity sequel to the refusal to undertake a fundamental “Re-federalisation of the federal-unitary contraption” clamped on it by the aberrant military jackboot. Corroborating this well-founded position, a revered Yoruba elder and legal icon, Chief Ayo Adebanjo had reasoned that it does not pay the political leadership to play the ostrich by pretending that all is well by its persistence to retain the false federal structure and it’s mode of governance which has proven to be at the root of all the intractable problems bedeviling the country inexorably leading it to the brink of a failed state.

Admonishing the federal government to respect the wise decisions of well-meaning Nigerians in the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference and without further delay set the necessary steps in motion to kick-start the implementation which has remained a panacea to the complex dilemma, the country has found itself. He said: “We are living in denial. Even when the truth is staring us in the face, we choose to deny it. You can’t solve the problem of this nation in any form until you restructure the country. The present constitution was not made by us, and so, it is a fraud. What will save us is for us to make a constitution that will pass through referendum and not this thing foisted on us by the military.

“This argument that sovereignty is with the National Assembly is false. When we talk about a constitution that will pass through referendum, you say referendum is not in the constitution. Which constitution? Is it the one that was imposed on us?”

The change of name “Nigerian Prisons Service” to “Nigerian Correctional Service” sequel to the signing of the bill into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, is not only ludicrous and preposterous but a mockery of global standard in such policy. It amounts to chasing the shadow and leaving the substance. In saner climes, such sensitive policy pronouncement ought to have gone through the crucible of public opinions of well enlightened people. The bill, which was tabled by one of the “ill-educated” legislators who knew little about the chequered political history of Nigeria, was without proper analysis and wider consultations signed into law so far it alligned with the false federalism championed by a section of the country who covertly and overtly kicks against restructuring of the country with lopsided parliament where policies, programmes and projects are made to reflect the lopsided structure that calls for re-federalisation to align with the global standard.

Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, who authored the bill in the 8th National Assembly might have been beating his chest for seeing his ‘wonderful’ Prison Reform Bill came into fruition as an Act. But realistically positioned, the Act is a proof of crass ignorance of federal system of government as obtained the world over. In the practice of federal system of government all over the world, prison system is within the province of the federating units either called ‘Regional governments’ as it was in the First Republic of Nigeria or ‘State governments’ as in the United States, Canada, etc.

No right thinking or properly educated Nigerian would applaud the federal government for the supposed prison reforms which include “Custodial and Non-Custodial Service”. According to the act, “the Custodial Service will deal with High Risk offenders so they can be reformed before being reintegrated into the society. The Non-Custodial Service would provide rehabilitation homes, vocational centres and correctional homes. The new law repeals the old Nigerian Prisons Act which has been in existence since the colonial times”.

The issue is not whether there is justifiable ground to applaud the federal government on the long overdue reforms of the country’s criminal justice system but the outright bastardised political system which the country is being operated. Since the call for the repudiation of the false federalism being operated has reached a crescendo, a rationally minded government should know that the game is up for the shallow-minded initiators, purveyors and apologists of the federal-unitary contraption which has hobble meaningful socio-economic and political growth and development of the country. When the country is restructured, then the prisons service will be rightly placed on the Residual Legislative List since the central or federal government has no business in prisons service as obtained in countries that embrace federal system of government.

Nigerian federalism cannot be different as military intervention in the country’s administration for whatever reason is expected to be temporary and not permanent. Corroborating this well-digested stance, a national daily editorial which however applauded the reforms of the prisons, however stridently decried the persistence clinging to the federal-unitary contraption which has led the country to the brink of a failed state due to many factors chief of which is pervasive and intractable insecurity.

The fiery editorial went a notch further by criticising the federal government for not amending the constitution to place prison service where it rightly belongs as seen in a credible federal arrangement the world over. It also lambasted the government from respecting or heeding the persistent and passionate appeals of Nigerians to implement the recommendations of the 2014 National Confab as a gradual or incremental step to full-blown restructuring of the federation and governance

The editorial contended thus: “To fully effect these changes in the prison system, there is need for the amendment of not only the Prison Act as it presently constituted but also the constitution. For example, 68 items are listed in the Exclusive Legislative List under Part 1 in the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution. These items would require an Act of the National Assembly to amend.

“The government should ensure adequate funding, training and capacity building for prison officials. For the reforms to succeed, the federal government must also work together with the state and local governments. The prisons as presently constituted cannot be regarded as correctional centres. They are grossly inadequate and overcrowded. For Nigerian prisons to be correctional centres as envisaged in the reforms, the prison officials must change their attitude to work. They must be physically and psychologically prepared for work”.

It is a tall dream to expect prisons under the Exclusive Legislative List to actualise the postulations of the federal government because it cannot finance such gargantuan programmes. Both the Nigerian Police and Prisons Service would have been collapsed but for the forced compelling of the federal government to state governors to fund these bodies and even other MDA’s, thus denying the state governments of funds to develop their areas and assuage the deep yearnings and aspirations of their people.

Due to the contraption backed by the 1999 Constitution, the Nigerian Prisons Service had been akin to animal dens not fit for human beings created by the Almighty God. The former governor of Akwa-Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio has to deny his people funds for basic amenities and built modern prison and handed it to the federal government which it cannot maintain now as the facilities are in shambles and deteriorating. It is needless enumerating the horrible condition of the prisons under the federal government.

Most of the prisons were built by the colonial government but ethno-religious selfish calculations has never allowed for demolition of the old model structures for state-of-art prisons as obtained in civilised countries of the world. For selfish ethno-religious calculations, items in the Exclusive Legislative List were jerked up to enable a section of the country to be controlling the country directly and indirectly, irrespective of the feelings and loud complaints of other ethno-religious groups that make up the country.

It is only decentralised security architecture, aka, Regional Police [not the deceptive community policing to be under the excruciating grip of the northern establishment to allow Fulani herdsmen to be lawless] and prisons that can provide good conditions as observed in civilised nations. False federalism has also been responsible for Nigeria being classified as the poverty center of the world.

So for the reforms of the prisons to be of value, the country has to be first and foremost restructured to reinvent the federal system of government in place in the first republic; the only difference being that the six geo-political zones will become the regional governments and local governments purely the sole concern of the regional. In the interim, the legislative lists should be reviewed with the federal government having three ministries viz: Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Immigration. All other ministries should be with the regional governments as was in the first republic. Why should a section of the country ‘fear’ the federal system of government in the First Republic, one may ask?

Accordingly, statutory revenue allocations should be reviewed to accord with the reviewed legislative items. There should be nothing like “Concurrent Legislative List” which the false federalists use to control the entire country’s bureaucracy directly and indirectly.

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