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Prison administration in Nigeria and threats of jail break

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Prison security and administration in the country has been a matter of intense debate and criticism at various public fora since the breach of security at Kuje Maximum Custodial Centre in July 2022.

The problems of dilapidated prison structures, congestion, high number of awaiting trial inmates, poor care and treatment of inmates and related matters, have also remained issues of concern about prison administration in the country.

This has led to growing advocacy for the protection of prisoners and improvement of custodial facilities in the country.

In response to these, the Federal Government has initiated holistic prison reforms, including the modernisation of custodial centres to ensure the reformation and rehabilitation of inmates.

In spite of this, stakeholders said there is a need to radically shake up the system to enthrone efficient protection of custodial centres to stop jail breaks and ensure timely arrest of all escaped prison inmates.

The Kuje jailbreak in July typified the laxity with which custodial centres were being managed in the country.

This is so, because despite the high number of terrorists under detention in the facility and intelligence report of impending attack, nothing was done to fortify the facility.

The government confirmed that 64 Boko Haram terrorists detained in the facility were among the 879 inmates that escaped. Kuje is the ninth successful jailbreak since 2015.

However, Minster of Interior, Mr Rauf Aregbesola has assured that the government had taken measures to enhance the security of custodial centres to stem all threats from within and outside.

He added that the government would upgrade preparation by instituting military bases, police, and other armed agencies stations around all custodial facilities.

Aregbesola ordered officers of the Nigeria Correctional Service to “shoot to kill” anyone who attempted to attack any of the facilities, and officially declared custodial centres as danger zones.

“People who will be in maximum and medium custodial centres must be tough. We have had too many embarrassing attacks and we must put a stop to it.

“Any effort to breach our facility is not acceptable. Don’t shoot to injure, shoot to kill. Don’t shoot to disable, shoot to kill,” he directed.

The Minister emphasised that custodial centres are “total embodiment of the authority of the Nigerian state to guarantee the security of the people,” as such must be protected at all cost.

To further strengthen the security of custodial centres, the government has inaugurated a command and control room for real time monitoring of selected custodial centres across the country.

“Inmates can be monitored without any violation of their rights. With this, jailbreaks and riots can be avoided or nipped in the bud,” Aregbesola said.

The government is also building modern prison villages with combined capacity to accommodate 9,000 inmates, to address the problem of congestion in the various custodial centres in the country.

The facilities are being constructed at Karshi in the FCT, Janguza in Kano and Bori in Rivers.

“Our administration on assumption of duty decided to have special facilities which six of such facilities were proposed at the beginning.

“What is special about the facilities we are talking about is, we now have mega facilities, I call it custodial village facility, because each of the six will have capacity for 3,000 inmates.

“This is almost unprecedented in Africa, if not in the world. In Africa, no nation has such facility within my own limit of knowledge from the study of African continent, there is no nation not even South of Africa.

“Three are very close to completion, one is almost completed; that is the one at Janguza in Kano,” he said.

Aregbesola said that the facility in Karshi, FCT was 75 per cent completed while that of Bori in Rivers was about 55 per cent.

“It means the country would now have custodial villages that could accommodate 9,000 inmates, each with 3000 capacity,” he added.

According to the Minister, the three other mega custodial centres in Ilesha, Umuahia, and another in the Northeast are at different stages of take-off.

“Ilesha is determined and the place is on, Umuahia is about to start, but we need financial support intervention to complete the first three,” he said.

The Controller General of Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS), Mr Haliru Nababa said there has been unprecedented improvement in prison administration in the country.

“The service has enjoyed generous increase in budgetary allocation over the last few years, enabling salient interventions, improvement and landmark achievements.

“All these projects are pivotal to the actualisation of NCoS core mandates. Therefore, there is no doubt whatsoever that the service will experience significant progress in service delivery,” the Controller General said.

Nababa said the service would not rest until it can compete with its contemporaries across the globe.

An Abuja-based human rights lawyer, Joel Omoyeni, called on federal and state governments to decongest correctional centres in order to reduce threats of jail breaks.

Omoyeni said “decongesting the prison is what should be done now. We believe that you solve a problem before it arrives by preventing it.

“For instance, for somebody who has spent five years awaiting trial for stealing generator, how do you reconcile that?

“And another politician is released from prison after three months, either because of no conviction, or no case to substantiate. These are because of plea bargain.

“The young man who is in prison for five years because he steals a generator is so angry that he could do anything, even in custody. That is why you hear of jailbreak.

“If a man goes into prison awaiting trial and in the next three months his case is decided, either convicted or released, there won’t be any need to worry.”

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FEATURE

Minimum Wage: Addressing poor implementation by states

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Minimum Wage  – the minimum amount of remuneration that an employer is required to pay wage earners for the work performed during a given period – remains a  sensitive matter.

The purpose of establishing a minimum wage is to protect workers against exploitation, reduce income inequality, alleviate poverty and promote social and economic well-being.

In Nigeria,  minimum wage is based on monthly income with an average working period of eight hours daily and five days weekly.

It is expected to be reviewed every five years. The last review was in 2019, from N18, 000 to N30,000.

As Nigerian workers expect  a new minimum wage in 2024,  President Bola Tinubu has promised that it will take effect from April.

Workers’ expectations on the minimum wage have been high through their two major labour centres, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC).

Workers cross the country are optimistic that the Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum Wage, which was set up by the Federal Government on Jan. 30 to determine the new minimum wage, will be realistic  in determining the new wage amount.

They expect the committee to put into consideration the high inflation rate of 31.7 per cent in February from 29.9 per cent reported by the National Bureau of Statistics in January, among other factors.

The President of the NLC, Mr Joe Ajaero, had stated that if the inflation would continue,  organised labour might push for a new minimum wage of up to one million Naira for Nigerian workers.

Proposals by TUC and NLC at recent public hearings in the six geopolitical zones and Abuja, indicate that the organised labour may slash the demand from one million Naira but still expects the wage to be able to absorb financial pressures faced by the Nigerian worker today.

During the zonal public hearings in Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa and Abuja, workers in the North-West requested for N485,000, North-East, N560,000; North-Central, N709,000 (NLC), and N447,000 (TUC); South-West, N794,000; South-South, N850,000; and South-East, N540,000 by  NLC and N447,000 by TUC.

According to the Chairman of Enugu State Chapter of the NLC, Mr Fabian Nwigbo, the value of N30,000 minimum wage approved in 2019 had been battered by inflation and worsening economic hardship.

Nwigbo argues that Nigerian workers remain the least paid in the entire West Africa.

“We are asking our leaders to consider the plight of Nigerians. It should be N540,000 per month,” he recommends.

The Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr Chris Onyeka, regrets that many workers can no longer afford their rents or pay their children’s school fees.

He is also worried that with increase in the cost of transport by almost 300 per cent, many civil servants are trekking to work.

Onyeka says every worker  wants to earn a favourable income.

‘’We expect that the minimum wage will take care of the basic needs of the average  Nigerian family.

“How much will that be? A loaf of bread that used to cost N600 is now almost N2,000.

‘’For a family of six, will a loaf of bread be enough for them  in a whole day? Will they not also, at least, take water to eat that bread?

‘’An average family will not spend anything less than N15,000 everyday to take care of themselves; we are talking about a salary that will meet those needs,” he emphasises.

The Lagos State Chairman of Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers’ Union of Nigeria, Mr Ismail Adejumo, is looking forward to a holistic review of the minimum wage.

Adejumo, who is also the Public Relations Officer, NLC, Lagos State Chapter, says:  “There are parameters to be considered, and  expectations from the workforce in terms of productivity too can be measured side-by-side with what government will do in terms of fixing minimum wage.

“As for the parameters, the cost of commodities is a key factor, and the issue of transportation is a key factor.

“We should also be looking at the issue of housing, we have shortage of housing in Lagos vis-a-vis the population; it is really affecting most working class.”

While expectations on the new minimum wage remain high, analysts argue that the challenge about minimum wage in Nigeria is not approval but implementation especially by state governments and some  private employers.

They argue that since inception, minimum wage in Nigeria has suffered non-compliance by some state governments and private employers due to inability to pay and reluctance to pay.

Thus, they believe that ability to pay is very crucial when considering review of minimum wage.

At the recent public hearing organised by the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage across the six geo-political zones of the country, Osun State Gov. Ademola Adeleke, who represented the governors in the South-West Zone, said that states lacked equal ability to pay.

‘’While it will be desirable to see that a uniform minimum wage is agreed to on a national basis, it will amount to self-deceit to assume that states have equal ability to pay.

‘’To this effect, I will humbly advise that individual states will have to negotiate with their workers and agree to a realistic and sustainable minimum wage in line with available resources, ‘’ Adeleke said.

However,  the Assistant General Secretary of NLC, Onyeka, argues that  state governments are not complying because there are no consequences for their non-complaince.

‘`If there were, I believe, many will be complying.

‘’The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, which is empowered by law to check abuses and violations of the extant law, does not have the capacity to monitor or enforce.

‘’When we look at the mechanism put in place by the Act to check non-compliance, reporting and enforcement, is the mechanism effective? It has to be strengthened, so that it will become effective,” he argues.

Prof. Kemi Okuwa, a Research Professor at the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research, notes that Nigeria is number 44 in minimum wage cadre in Africa.

Okuwa made a presentation at the recent South-West Zonal public hearing, which took place in Lagos

According to her, the current N30,000 minimum wage is equivalent to $20 per month.

For the Director-General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, Mr Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, there must be critical review  of the current minimum wage by all stakeholders.

Oyerinde also urges appropriate recommendations, approval and implementation.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) wants the tripartite committee to take into account the present circumstances, unique characteristics of individual states, and their effects on the abilities of both governments and private sector employers to pay, when determining the  new wage amount.

In a communiqué issued after its virtual meeting, and signed by its Chairman and Kwara  governor. AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq, and made available to journalists on Thursday, the NGF said: “Members reviewed the progress of the National Minimum Wage Committee and ongoing multi-stakeholder engagements towards agreeing on a fair minimum wage.

“Members urged the National Minimum Wage Committee to consider the current realities, individual states’ peculiarities, and consequential impact on the capacity of  government as well as private sector employers to pay.

“Members also emphasised the need for proposals to be data-driven and evidence-based,” he said. Analysts urge the 37-member  tripartite committee, comprising government representatives, the organised labour, and employers association, to ensure that the new minimum wage reflects the evolving economic landscape.

They advise that the minimum wage should  meet the needs of the Nigerian  worker, urging also that it should be implementable and sustainable.

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FEATURE

Minimum Wage: Addressing poor implementation by states

Published

on

Minimum Wage  – the minimum amount of remuneration that an employer is required to pay wage earners for the work performed during a given period – remains a  sensitive matter.

The purpose of establishing a minimum wage is to protect workers against exploitation, reduce income inequality, alleviate poverty and promote social and economic well-being.

In Nigeria,  minimum wage is based on monthly income with an average working period of eight hours daily and five days weekly.

It is expected to be reviewed every five years. The last review was in 2019, from N18,000 to N30,000.

As Nigerian workers expect  a new minimum wage in 2024,  President Bola Tinubu has promised that it will take effect from April.

Workers’ expectations on the minimum wage have been high through their two major labour centres, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC).

Workers across the country are optimistic that the Tripartite Committee on the National Minimum Wage, which was set up by the Federal Government on Jan. 30 to determine the new minimum wage, will be realistic  in determining the new wage amount.

They expect the committee to put into consideration the high inflation rate of 31.7 per cent in February from 29.9 percent reported by the National Bureau of Statistics in January, among other factors.

The President of the NLC, Mr Joe Ajaero, had stated that if the inflation would continue,  organised labour might push for a new minimum wage of up to one million Naira for Nigerian workers.

Proposals by TUC and NLC at recent public hearings in the six geopolitical zones and Abuja, indicate that the organised labour may slash the demand from one million Naira but still expects the wage to be able to absorb financial pressures faced by the Nigerian worker today.

During the zonal public hearings in Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa and Abuja, workers in the North-West requested for N485,000, North-East, N560,000; North-Central, N709,000 (NLC), and N447,000 (TUC); South-West, N794,000; South-South, N850,000; and South-East, N540,000 by  NLC and N447,000 by TUC.

According to the Chairman of Enugu State Chapter of the NLC, Mr Fabian Nwigbo, the value of N30,000 minimum wage approved in 2019 had been battered by inflation and worsening economic hardship.

Nwigbo argues that Nigerian workers remain the least paid in the entire West Africa.

“We are asking our leaders to consider the plight of Nigerians. It should be N540,000 per month,” he recommends.

The Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr Chris Onyeka, regrets that many workers can no longer afford their rents or pay their children’s school fees.

He is also worried that with an increase in the cost of transport by almost 300 per cent, many civil servants are trekking to work.

Onyeka says every worker wants to earn a favourable income.

‘’We expect that the minimum wage will take care of the basic needs of the average Nigerian family.

“How much will that be? A loaf of bread that used to cost N600 is now almost N2,000.

‘’For a family of six, will a loaf of bread be enough for them for a whole day? Will they not also, at least, take water to eat that bread?

“An average family will not spend anything less than N15,000 everyday to take care of themselves; we are talking about a salary that will meet those needs,” he emphasises.

The Lagos State Chairman of Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers’ Union of Nigeria, Mr Ismail Adejumo, is looking forward to a holistic review of the minimum wage.

Adejumo, who is also the Public Relations Officer, NLC, Lagos State Chapter, says, “There are parameters to be considered, and  expectations from the workforce in terms of productivity too can be measured side-by-side with what the government will do in terms of fixing minimum wage.

“As for the parameters, the cost of commodities is a key factor, and the issue of transportation is a key factor.

“We should also be looking at the issue of housing, we have a shortage of housing in Lagos vis-a-vis the population; it is really affecting most working class.”

While expectations on the new minimum wage remain high, analysts argue that the challenge about minimum wage in Nigeria is not approval but implementation especially by state governments and some  private employers.

They argue that since inception, minimum wage in Nigeria has suffered non-compliance by somestate governments and private employers due to inability to pay and reluctance to pay.

Thus, they believe that ability to pay is very crucial when considering the review of minimum wage.

At the recent public hearing organised by the Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage across the six geo-political zones of the country, Osun State Gov. Ademola Adeleke, who represented the governors in the South-West Zone, said that states lacked equal ability to pay.

“While it will be desirable to see that a uniform minimum wage is agreed to on a national basis, it will amount to self-deceit to assume that states have equal ability to pay.

“To this effect, I will humbly advise that individual states will have to negotiate with their workers and agree to a realistic and sustainable minimum wage in line with available resources,” Adeleke said.

However,  the Assistant General Secretary of NLC, Onyeka, argues that  state governments are not complying because there are no consequences for their non-compliance.

“If there were, I believe, many will be complying.

“The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, which is empowered by law to check abuses and violations of the extant law, does not have the capacity to monitor or enforce.

“When we look at the mechanism put in place by the Act to check non-compliance, reporting and enforcement, is the mechanism effective? It has to be strengthened, so that it will become effective,” he argues.

Prof. Kemi Okuwa, a Research Professor at the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research, notes that Nigeria is number 44 in minimum wage cadre in Africa.

Okuwa made a presentation at the recent South-West Zonal public hearing, which took place in Lagos

According to her, the current N30,000 minimum wage is equivalent to $20 per month.

For the Director-General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, Mr Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, there must be a critical review  of the current minimum wage by all stakeholders.

Oyerinde also urges appropriate recommendations, approval and implementation.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) wants the tripartite committee to take into account the present circumstances, unique characteristics of individual states, and their effects on the abilities of both governments and private sector employers to pay, when determining the  new wage amount.

In a communiqué issued after its virtual meeting, and signed by its Chairman and Kwara  governor. AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq, and made available to journalists on Thursday, the NGF said, “Members reviewed the progress of the National Minimum Wage Committee and ongoing multi-stakeholder engagements towards agreeing on a fair minimum wage.

“Members urged the National Minimum Wage Committee to consider the current realities, individual states’ peculiarities, and consequential impact on the capacity of  government as well as private sector employers to pay.

“Members also emphasised the need for proposals to be data-driven and evidence-based,” he said.

Analysts urge the 37-member  tripartite committee, comprising government representatives, the organised labour, and employers association, to ensure that the new minimum wage reflects the evolving economic landscape.

They advise that the minimum wage should meet the needs of the Nigerian  worker, urging also that it should be implementable and sustainable.

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FEATURE

Insecurity: Any role for ex-servicemen?

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Insecurity in Nigeria is not only a threat to the safety of humans. It also has wide reaching implications for food security and the economy.

It is safe to argue that since the nation gained political independence in 1960, apart from the civil war period, the country has not faced a more security challenge as it has in the past decade.

Thousands of lives have been lost, farmers are being displaced from their farmlands while kidnappers that once prowled the highways now lurk around their prey in the cities while Boko Haram menace has not stopped.

Mitigating the factors that make the security challenge fester as well as stopping it has become Nigeria’s number one priority because no nation thrives under a security crisis.

Doing so will make Nigerians feel safe in their country once more, restore foreign investors’ confidence and put less pressure on the nation’s security structure.

Parts of the country that seemed to be safe from the challenge such as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Kwara now also feel the heat.

According to data curated by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), in 2023 more than 8,119 people were killed in more than 4,326 violent events across Nigeria.

ACLED is a US.-based disaggregated data collection, analysis, and crisis mapping project that uses real-time data and analysis sources on political violence and protests worldwide.

Security experts have suggested different approaches to solving the problem include the now famous ‘carrot and stick’ method, as well as outright onslaught against the criminals.

However, other experts say the nation’s security chiefs could harness the experience and knowledge of ex-servicemen as they seek to end the challenge.

In 2023 the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), retired Gen. Lucky Irabor, once mooted the idea of incorporating retired military personnel to help in the fight against insecurity.

According to him, retirees can combine their experience of living with civilians as retirees and their military background to provide intelligence that can help in efforts to secure the country.

“To make a significant impact in ensuring that peace takes pre-eminence in the country, we need to fall back on the retired military officers.

“This is because they also live among the people, thereby having a lot to offer regarding security issues.

“Once a military officer, you remain a military officer for life, whether serving or retired. The motto of the country, which is ‘Unity, Peace and Faith,’ is what we swore to defend, and we are committed to it,” he had said.

However, Chief Akpodiogaga Emeyese, one time member representing Ethiope East Federal Constituency in the House of Representative, thinks otherwise.

According to him, having retired at 60 years, age is no longer on the side of the retirees to execute assignments such as engaging in rigorous security activities.

He added that young people tend to take up more risky responsibilities than persons above the age of 60 years even though they may still be strong and willing to carry out such assignments.

“Thus, using retired military personnel to resolve our security challenges may not be the best of ideas,” he said.

Similarly, retired Capt. John Ojikutu, an Aviation/Security expert, said that bringing back ex-servicemen was not the solution to fighting insecurity in the country.

Ojikutu said that there was the need for Nigeria to return to the drawing board and begin to do things the way they were done before.

He also faulted the idea of changing the Nigerian Police to the Nigerian Police Force as well as all security agencies trying to carry out the same responsibility,

He opined that such tactics would not yield any positive result, and argued that each security agency ought to work within a specific role, though they must all share intelligence to achieve a common feat.

He said that intelligence must only be shared among the security agencies, adding that not all intelligence should be shared with members of the public.

“I don’t believe in this idea of everybody carrying guns. The police, army and even the NDLEA and Civil Defence.

“As a country, we cannot continue that way at all because we cannot get results.

“Can we go back to how we were doing it? I think what should be done is to look for people that were doing it before and we were getting results.

“Let’s talk to these people and ask them how they were handling internal security before.

“If security is going to be on one agency, then you have intelligence following behind, then you get the information, and they do the analysis,” explained.

Secretary General, Armed Forces Veterans Federation of Nigeria, Dr Awwal Abdullahi, also thinks that the veterans have a role to play in securing the country.

Abdullahi, who is also the spokesperson of the Ministry of Defence Ministerial Committee on Armed Forces, Veterans Welfare said that ex-servicemen could be re-engaged into the fold of the armed forces.

He agrees with Irabor that ex-servicemen may not necessarily be engaged in physical combat but could be useful in intelligence gathering and information dissemination.

He said that having served in the military and now residing among civilians has given them “double experience which will be very useful in what we call technological intelligence gathering warfare.”

He explained that technological in that context meant intelligence gathering using the latest technology, while warfare involves the use of humans to get technical intelligence.

“This is one aspect that can be very, very useful and the federal government can decide to engage us back into the services or provide service of intelligence, technological intelligence and warfare intelligence.

“When I say warfare intelligence it doesn’t mean we have to carry guns to go and start fighting.

“No, we can be reengaged to provide the necessary credible intelligence, timely intelligence, useful intelligence that will mitigate the challenging situation that Nigeria is having in terms of security,” he said.

Another veteran, a retired captain who preferred to be anonymous said that the insecurity in the country was not something unexpected.

He, however, urged the government to find a way of involving retired army generals as think tanks to profile pieces of advice.

“Veterans can help. Let the government call on them. Let them give them a task to do. Let them commission them to do this or do that.

“We have handled arms before and we can still handle them,” he said.

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