- Seeks private sector funding for prisons, wants inmates engaged in agriculture
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The National Executive Council (NEC) Thursday extended the lifespan of the federal government’s financial support to various states of the federation, to cushion the biting effects of the recession.
Rising from its monthly meeting presided over by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo in the State House, Abuja, the council also said it resolved to extend the support in view of pending settlements to some states and local governments.
Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting, Gombe State Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo, who said the council also received the report on the forensic audits of the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), gave the balances in various federation accounts as of June 28.
According to him, the Excess Crude Account balance stood a $2.3 billion; Stabilisation Account balance, N28.5 billion; Natural Resources Account balance was N87.6 billion; while the balance in Ecological Account was N28.9 billion.
“Council was briefed on the budget support to states because of dwindling revenue and budget implementation. The programme was meant for a year but because of the recession, the acting president said the facility should continue pending when other claims of states and local governments are settled.
“The committee of NEC set up to review or carry out a forensic audit of the ECA and FAAC submitted its interim report. As of today, 10 of the 18 MDAs have been audited; audits of five others are still ongoing; three are yet to start.
“Council agreed that we should submit a full report at the next NEC meeting,” Dankwambo submitted.
In his own briefing, Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi said the council was briefed by the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, and Comproller-General of Prisons on the state of the prisons and resolved that there was need for a declaration of emergency on the state of Nigerian prisons.
He also said NEC tasked the governors to deploy all within their powers to salvage the prisons, including the engagement of private sector participation.
Umahi said NEC also agreed that some of the inmates could be engaged in farming.
“The Minister of Interior and CG, Nigeria Prisons briefed council on the state of prisons and inmates throughout the country. The situation they painted was quite pathetic.
“I visited the prisons in my state for the first time recently and what I saw was terrible… So it was agreed that governors should on their own develop initiatives to manage the prisons. For instance, some have transferred prisons from the urban centres.
“NEC agreed that governors should support the federal government on prison matters. States that have the capacity to build prisons should go ahead and do so, including the involvement of private sector participation.
“The minister said 70 per cent of inmates are awaiting trial. Some of them can be converted to labour use. Ten per cent of them are condemned, meaning 20 per cent are convicts. Some of the prisoners should also be engaged in agriculture activities.
“NEC agreed that the governors should do a number of things to decongest the prisons and the chief judges of the states should frequently visit the prisons.
“Governors should either sign the death sentences of those condemned or commit them, because it is risky leaving them after their trial has been concluded. So NEC resolved that there should be a declaration of emergency on prisons,” he said.
Umahi also reported that the Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, briefed the council on the state of SDGs in the country and came up with recommendations, among others, that a commission on SDGs should be set up to commence a quick assessment of the situation on the ground.
Other recommendations she listed included: building synergies between federal and state governments on SDGs; sensitisation and advocacy at the sub-national level and follow up, while governors should have commissioners or special assistants to oversee SDGs in their states and also come up with state action plans.
Also briefing, the Director-General of National Action Council for AIDS, Sani Ali, who reported that three million Nigerians are living with HIV/AIDS, said the council deliberated on the need to increase HIV funding.
According to him, there was need to set aside 0.5 per cent of the monthly federal allocation to fund HIV treatment, noting that more than 70 per cent of the current one million victims being treated are funded by development partners.