Three former state governors, who were recently convicted, have since changed their residential addresses to the Kuje Custodial Centre, Abuja, where they are said to be doing well. BLESSING OLAIFA reports.
They are high profile prisoners. But majority of them are still pursuing their appeals at the appellate courts. They are people who, in the past, enjoyed immunity against prosecution.
In fact, the law vested in them the prerogative of mercy to pardon prisoners without anyone questioning their actions. They were governors in their various states from 1999 to 2007. But there was a twist in fate and the order of things has changed. They are now serving terms at the Kuje Custodial Centre, Abuja. Here, we have a former governor of Plateau State, Chief Joshua Chibi Dariye; a former Governor of Taraba State, Jolly Nyame; and a former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu.
At the time of their conviction, Dariye and Kalu were both serving Senators, elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). They were tried, convicted and sentenced for acts of financial infractions during their eight years as governors.
Nyame also served as governor in his Taraba during the same period and was the first to be convicted among the three. The immediate past spokesman for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh joined the trio in their new residential address a few days ago. Metuh, like the three former governors, was also convicted for offences bordering on money laundering.
Questions are being asked on the implications of having a concentration of these high profile individuals at the Kuje Custodian Centre. The Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCS), Alhaji Jaafaru Ahmed, said there was no cause for alarm.
Ahmed said their presence in Kuje was in line with the dictates of their warrants as issued by the various courts that convicted them.
According to him, the high profile inmates would continue to have access to their lawyers, family members, and relations, in line with the rules and regulations of the service.
Explaining further, Ahmed said: “The trials are taking place here in Abuja and the nearest custodial centre you have is Kuje Custodial Centre. So, their warrants say Kuje Custodian Centre, therefore, it is not for me to say go away or to decide for the judge where he should commit them to.
They are committed to Kuje Custodial Centre and that is how it is.”
Of the four inmates, only Kalu was tried and convicted by a Lagos court. But as Ahmed explained, his remand warrant indicated that he be brought to the custodial centre in Abuja.
On the safety and security of the inmates, the CG said: “We have our own internal way of ensuring their security and others and we will definitely look into all issues regarding them. We have our rules regarding any form of visit to them and our rules are being obeyed and we will continue to provide opportunity for their people to visit them.”
Stating that the conviction of some of them might not be final, Ahmed said the convicts still have their cases pending before appellate courts.
“Most of them are going for appeals. Some have exhausted their appeals, having got up to the Supreme Court and others will still go up to that level. So, we will allow their lawyers and family members to come and see them to interact. But it will be conducted within the rules because the service had its own standing orders and every correctional officer knows the procedures of conducting visits for both convicts and awaiting trial inmates.”
The Comptroller-General interacted with reporters on the side-lines of a three-day national workshop on Welfare/Insurance Scheme for NCS personnel across the federation.
The workshop was geared towards planning for the rainy day through skill acquisition and entrepreneurship for self-sustenance of officers after retirement. Ahmed expressed delight that the Correctional Service Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society has over N1 billion in its accounts.
According to him, this meant that subscription had gone up by 50 per cent. By implication, officers receiving benefits of N30, 000 per month, would now get up to N2 million at retirement.
Alhaji Ahmed, who said various steps were being taken to improve the welfare of personnel, added that the Correctional Welfare Insurance Scheme had settled 2,408 retirement benefit claims between 2016 and 2019. The CG also said 548 medical claims and 593 death claims were also settled within the period.
He further said: “We have reviewed employee contributions upward to enable personnel to have a substantial amount as take home on retirement. This, I dare say, is saving for the rainy day.
“I assure you that under my watch, CIWS will continue to grow stronger and better for our collective benefit. We are committed to ensuring that like it is for the entire service, the new order is not a mere name change but a holistic turnaround for good.”