Nigerian government is annually spending N10billion for feeding of prisoners in the country, minister of Interior, AbdurRahman Dambazau has said.
With the country’s estimated prison population of 57,000, the government is roughly spending N14,000 for a three-square meal of each prisoner per day.
Speaking at a town hall meeting in Kaduna on Tuesday, Mr Dambazau said his ministry is searching inward to see how it can harness some revenue sources in the sector to complement government’s efforts.
“It is unacceptable for government to be commiting N10 billion every year on feeding of prison inmates,” Mr Dambazau said.
However, while defending the 2018 budget, before the members of the Senate Committee on Interior, the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Prisons Service, Ahmed Ja’afaru, stated that N17 billion was allocated for feeding which is to spread across 244 prisons.
In a reaction, Senator Chukwuka Utazi decried the little budgetary allocation given to prisoners in the country which he had noticed over time.
Senator Utazi noted that the treatment given to the prison inmates “would make them gradually become a menace” when they are eventually released into the society.
“In 2015, I told the former CG about this because I over see also the human rights and we go to prisons and we see these things ourselves. I raised this issue of prison food ration. It is a serious issue that I think if you get it right; it would help a whole lot of things,” Utazi said.
“You have 17 billion here spread across 244 prisons. It is 244 with all the population there and we have 17 billion, I want to find out, what is the present ration per head,” the Enugu state lawmaker asked.
The Comptroller-General explained that the N300 was for the actual meal and N150 is expended on cooking.
Irked by his response, Senator Utazi called for a review of the allocation for feeding for prisoners.
“450 for one day? For an adult? Mr. Chairman, this is outrageous. This is unacceptable, unthinkable and unheard of. This committee will not be a party to this kind of budget. It is totally embarrassing that adults that you send to the prison, they have 300 meals. Is it for a baby or for who?
“I feel that we are getting it wrong. That is part of the problem we are having in the country. You send people to go and be reformed, they come out hardened and they become a menace t our society.”
He said: “Mr. chairman, I feel that you are going to take this thing up on our behalf to get to the budget office. The minister of planning and this thing has to be reviewed. Today, in most of the prisons are at the mercy of benevolent people who send food to prison inmates and I don’t know how many of them are out there doing such.
“This is for 2017, we are yet to get to 2018 and see what they are just doing here. I am of the opinion that we have a total review. Anything that is not in the neighbourhood of giving this people minimum of 500 per meal is not acceptable.
“In a day N1,500 per inmate. These are human beings and our brothers. Yes, they are deviants but they remain our brothers and we want them to come out unless you want them to remain in the prison forever. There is no way the federal republic of Nigeria should be budgeting N450 per head,” he added.
The committee also the queried the printing of Nigerian passport outside the country by the Immigration Service.