By Emeka Ogenyi
More than 35 Officers of the Non-Custodial Directorate of Nigerian Correctional Service, Akwa Ibom have received training on how to utilize non custodial measures in handling petty Offences.
The three day training, undertaken by the Prisons Rehabilitation and Welfare Action and sponsored by Open Society Initiative for Africa, OSIWA, was held at the correctional service headquarters, Federal Secretariat in Uto yesterday.
The Controller of Corrections, Akinlola Orisabinone, in an address, said the project was part of efforts by PRAWA to ensure the ‘declassification’ of petty offences so that persons involved in such offences are not put into custody rather served alternative measure of punishment.
Represented by his deputy, Richard Williams, the Controller noted that the Nigerian Correctional Service act was enacted on July 2019 to address new issues not captured in the old law.
He noted that the training would equip the officers with the requisite knowledge on the normal laws of the system and how to carry them out in the field such as coordinating the implementation of non custodial measures with the judiciary under the relevant agencies.
Also the Deputy Corrections Controller, Non custodial unit in the State, Imaobong Nestor in her opening remarks disclosed that the implementation rate of Non custodial measures in Akwa Ibom was impressive with the support of the State government.
Nestor who regretted the congestion level of rooms in the command said the non custodial measures were meant to decongest the centres adding that the command have been ensuring that those who engaged in petty offences such as loitering, fighting or picking of phones were given an alternative form of punishment like community service or payment of fines as the case might be.
According to her, “the implementation rate of non custodial measures in Akwa Ibom State is high. The State government has supported us. The governor gave us three set of computers, gave us three office spaces in Uyo, Ikot Ekpene and Eket. That is to show that we are relevant and our officers are working hard to actualise the official mandate.”
She however said that lack of funds have become great impediment for the smooth running of some programmes in the command.
Giving an overview of the event, a staff of PRAWA, Linda Reuben said the programme was borne out of the need to decongest custodial centres in Nigeria adding that one of the ways to go about that was decriminalising petty offences so that petty offenders can be punished in different forms and be allowed to go home.
She noted that most times if offenders of petty crimes are put in custody for a long time, they may develop criminal tendencies and would become worse than they were before being locked up.
Reuben acknowledged the challenge of lack of funds pointed out by the command saying that the act was a baby act promising that with time all the issues would be addressed.
She said, “there is already a law to this effect since 2019. In Akwa Ibom there is already some effects of this law because activities have started happening, all we can do is to see how we can empower them with trainings.”
The training according to the organizers would end on Friday, March 12, 2021.