The Senate, yesterday, witnessed a mild drama during plenary, when Senator Gabriel Suswam (PDP, Benue North East), a former governor, suggested that all Nigerian leaders should spend two days in the prisons.
However, the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, immediately countered him, saying that former governors and their deputies should be the ones to spend the two days in prison.
However, Senator Ibrahim Gobir (APC, Sokoto East), who also spoke on the matter, said that correctional service in Nigeria are colleges for hardened criminals and not for civil persons.
The event unfolded during the debate on a motion on the need to upgrade, decongest and disinfect correctional centres nationwide, sponsored by Senator Uche Ekwunife.
While contributing to the debate on the motion, Suswam said that his two-day experience in the Kuje Prison gave him a lot of insight into the Nigerian prisons, suggesting that all Nigerian leaders should spend two days at the correctional centres.
“I spent two days in prison. I want to support this motion based on my experience and when I left, I recommended that for people to be proper leaders in this country, at least each and every one of us must spend one or two days in prison,” Suswam said.
However, Lawan interjected and said “anyone who served as a governor, yes and deputy governor probably.”
Continuing, Suswam said: “Like what the former minister, Abba Moro, said earlier, I went there, they took me there in the night. The following day in the morning, the entire prison knew I was there.
“I sat down there from morning to evening because there were a lot of young people there and it might interest you to know that they spend years in prison, for demeanors you can easily dismiss.
“There was a young man who has spent 10 years there for just a problem of N10,000. Various individuals were there on very minor offences that the police can afford to correct them and send them home.
“I made it a point of duty that when I left that place, for the next one month, I took close to 20 young people out of that place. It didn’t take anything, just pay the money, and send them back to court. I selected three lawyers who I sent to Kuje Prison. Most of the people that are there don’t need to be there and they unduly congest the place,” Suswam said.
However, Gobir (APC, Sokoto East) said that the prisons had, over the years, been a ground where criminal gangs were formed.
“It is college for criminals. People become hardened criminals. Prisons are owned by government and the correctional centres should be owned by individuals,” Gobir said. “If we can improve them to be well secured and well rehabilitated, it would be a good development.”
Senator Rochas Okorocha (APC, Imo), in his contribution, said that Nigeria prisons had demonstrated the worst kind of man’s inhumanity to man and should be addressed.
The Senate, in its resolution, resolved that the Federal Government should encourage private participation in the development of correctional centres across the country.
It also urged the Ministry of Interior to commence the process of upgrading facilities in the Nigeria correctional centres.
It also urged the correctional services to adequately profile inmates and separate them accordingly to avoid lumping of light/first offenders with hardened criminals and undertake a national clean up and fumigation of all correctional facility in the country, to avoid outbreak of epidemics