State governments on Sunday faulted the plan by the Federal Government to cede the feeding and caring for inmates in custodial centres to states.
The governments of Ogun, Gombe, Ondo, Delta, Borno, Osun and Rivers argued that the Federal Government should review the current revenue allocation formula to put them in a better financial position to shoulder the proposed responsibility.
The states said these in separate interviews against the backdrop of the statement by the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, that the Federal Government would stop feeding state offenders in custodial centres across the country from January 1, 2024.
He also stated state governments must include the feeding of their inmates in federal facilities in their budgets till they could build their custodial centres.
Aregbesola stated this following the recent constitutional amendment which placed Correctional Services on the concurrent list.
Speaking at the inauguration of the command headquarters of the Nigerian Correctional Service in Owerri, the Imo State capital, on Friday, the minister said, “This simply means that states are now empowered to establish their own correctional services and facilities.
“States which do not have correctional facilities would have to pay the Federal Government for the feeding and accommodation of their inmates.”
But commenting on the proposal, the Ogun State government faulted the approach adopted by the Federal Government to cede the funding of correctional services to states.
For a successful transfer of the custodial centres to the states, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Communications, Remmy Hazzan, maintained that the central government must be ready to yield more revenue to the states before talking about shifting the inmates’ responsibility, stressing that it could not be done by fiat.
He said, “These things are not done by executive fiat. There are procedures; there are things that are part and parcel of establishment matters and you don’t change establishment patterns just by executive fiat. It has to go through the due process.
“To be precise, states that are expected to take over the responsibility, to what extent have they been incorporated into this discussion? So, things don’t just happen by executive fiat. Are they also going to cede the part of the federally collected revenue going into the federation account based on this requirement for the correctional services?’’
The Gombe State Commissioner for Information and Culture Meshack Lauco, contended that states were managing to survive and wouldn’t be able to shoulder additional responsibilities.
For the Federal Government’s proposal to work, the commissioner submitted that states must be given additional funds to handle the new responsibility.
He stated, “Right now, if you check the states and how they are coping considering the resources available to them, most of the states are just managing to survive.
“Now, if you give them additional responsibilities, will you give them additional funding to take care of the responsibility or are they going to say, ‘Okay, each state takes away prisoners, in this case, your indigenes.’ And if that happens, can’t we see the tendency for even some states to say ‘Since we don’t have the money to maintain you (inmates) in custodial centres, we release you to society.’ Are we not looking at that angle?’’
Gombe faults FG
Laucko wondered why the Federal Government was trying to outsource its responsibility to states, noting that there could be consequences if this was allowed to happen.
He noted, “Since the creation of states in Nigeria, the correctional service has been under the Federal Government; why is the Federal Government running from its responsibility?
“There is going to be a lot of consequences if they say the state government should take charge. The state government is trying to reduce some of the burden it’s carrying; now they want to transfer the custodial centres. Will the federal government only take care of the custodial centre in Abuja?”
Asked if the state would construct its own correctional facilities as directed by the minister, the commissioner baulked, saying that remained the duty of the central government.
“Why must we? Let the Federal Government clearly define the role of the state government in the maintenance of the custodial centres. Is it just the responsibility without any commensurate compensation?’’ he queried.
Speaking further, he added that states were involved in the construction of federal roads, insisting that the Federal Government cannot delegate its responsibility to states without considering the financial implications.
In its submission, the Ondo State Government said it would feed the inmates in the state provided there was an increase in the resources allocated to the state.
The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Mr Charles Titiloye, explained that the state had no money to finance any prison presently.
Since the correctional services are longer on the exclusive list, the Attorney-General submitted that the state should get increased monthly allocation which would enable it to bear the added burden of caring for the inmates being held in the state.
He said, “There are some things that must come in first before that is done, in terms of the revenue allocation. Because the revenue allocation done currently is based on some figures and statistics available as to what the Federal Government caters for.
“The defence, prison, and immigration sectors receive a big chunk from the federal allocation on a monthly basis. Now that prison is now on the concurrent list, when states are sharing those functions with the Federal Government, that means more money has to be given to the states to be able to function very effectively in that regard. But that cannot be done with the meagre money states are receiving currently.”
For the proposal to work, the Delta State Government asked the FG, to as a matter of urgency, review the current revenue sharing formula and allocate more funds to enable the states to take care of their responsibilities.