By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – THE Federal Government yesterday told state governors to sign death warrants of prisoners that have been convicted so as to decongest the prisons.
This is as the Federal Government has concluded plans to build prisons close to farms so as to make able prisoners relevant.
These were some of the decisions reached at the National Economic Council, NEC, presided over by the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Briefing State House Correspondents, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi state in company of Governor Ibrahim Dankwanbo of Gombe State stated that the nation’s prisons were congested and had become security risk.
Governor Umahi also stated that there have been cases of jail break in recent times which was due to prison congestion, stressing that the NEC had given express permission to state governors to sign death warrants for convicted prisoners.
According to Umahi, “In our NEC meeting today, the Minister of Interior (Abdulram Danbazzau) and the CG of Prisons came to brief us about the status of our prisons and the inmates through out the country.
“The situation painted by the Minister and the CG of Prisons was pathetic and some of gave graphic examples of what is happening in our prisons up to the states.
“For example last few months, we had a jail break in my state and to true confession, that was the first time I visited prison. What I saw was a very terrible situation that shouldn’t be allowed and that is how it has been through out the country in all the states.
“Some of us on our own developed some initiatives. Some have succeeded in the states from transferring the prisons from the urban centre outside the city centre. Some are providing medical services, some are building new prisons.
“And so NEC considered all the submissions and came up with an agreement that the governors should assist the Federal Government in partnership to rehabilitate the prisons.
“And it was also agreed that the states that have the capacity to build prisons should go ahead including private sectors participation. And of course the minister made it very clear that over 70 percent of inmates are awaiting trial.
“The Minister did point out that they are beginning to do some prisons in farms and purchase some agric equipment which means that some of these prisoners that are available and could move freely could be engaged in agricultural programmes. This was agreed.
“The governors were also advised to do a number things to decongest the prisons. For example the Chief Judges of various states should do a more frequent visits to the prisons. They have constitutional role to perform during such visits.
“The governors on their own from time to time should also be also to visit. On the condemned criminals, the governors and NEC agreed that the governors should either sign their death sentences or commit them as they would wish because they will also serve as a risk if judgement has been delivered and no appeal is pending and the governors are not taking action on that.
“On the whole, NEC viewed that there should be emergency situations in terms of our prisons so that these people that are supposed to be reformed right there should not be further hardened.”
The governor disclosed that the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) briefed Council on the implementation of the SDGs in Nigeria.
He said, “The Sustainable Development Goals were birthed at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio De Janeiro in 2012. The objective was to produce a set of universal goals that meet the urgent environmental, social and economic challenges facing our world.
“Updates on SDGs implementation Development and dissemination of MDGs End Point which provides an opportunity to define the challenges of MDGs implementation.
“Development of the Country Transition Strategy, this involves careful planning to move MDGs to SDGs. Integration of SDGs into Development Plans.
“This means SDGs core areas such as energy, food, security, agriculture, infrastructural development, etc have been integrated into the recently launched National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (NERGP).
“Rollout of SDGs Needs Assessment and costing exercise. Data Mapping and Determination of SDGs Baseline indicators to benchmark. Partnership Agreement with UNDP to deploy UN Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support MAPS) tool. Recommendations for Building Synergies with Sub-National Governments Commissioned a group to conduct a quick assessment of the situation on grand.
“Building of synergies: Mainstreaming and Integration of SDGs into State Development Plans Evidence Based planning through Needs Assessment and coasting Delivering impact through the conditional grants scheme.
“Sensitization and Advocacy at the sub-national level. SDGs follow-up and Review mechanisms. Partnership with the private sector. Council Decision
Council agrees to improve security and facilities in schools especially the primary schools through proper funding.”
Also briefing on Excess Crude Account, the Governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwamba said the Finance Minister presented a balance of $2.3 billion in the Excess Crude Account.
He said, “Although Finance Minister presented that the Budget Support Loan Facility has being fully disbursed, she announced that the Acting President has directed the facility continues until other States claim are paid.
“The Budget Support Loan Facility is an initiation of the Buhari Administration to help States get boost in their funding in the light of the dwindling FAAC allocations.”
He further stated that the Accountant General of the Federation briefed the NEC on Stabilisation Fund.
He said “The Accountant General of the Federation gave an update on the Stabilisation Fund, Natural Resources Development Fund and Ecological Fund:
Stabilisation Balance as at 28/6/17 – N28.5 billion Natural Resources Development Fund N87.6 billion Ecological Fund N28.9 billion.”
On the financial position of states for June, Dankwanba said, “Council was briefed on budget support to states because of dwindling revenue and budget implementation.
“The programme was meant for a year but because of recession, acting president said the facility should continue pending when other claims of states and local governments will be settled, Committee of NEC set up to review or carry out forensic audit of the ECA and FAC submitted interim report.
“As at today, 10 of 18 ministries, departments and agencies have been audited; audit of five are still ongoing; three are yet to start. Council agreed that we shed submit a full report at next NEC meeting.”
The Director General of NACA, Dr. Sanni Aliu while briefing journalists on Public Sector funding said that there were three million people living with HIV.
He said, “Some States have budget allocation for HIV programmes but not released. Issues of HIV needs to be prioritized.
“At least 0.5% to 1% of monthly Federation Allocation to States be set aside for financing the implementation of the HIV/AIDS programme.
“A universal free antenatal services and abolition of user fees associated with accessing prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) services.
Each State to set up an ANC/PMTCT revolving fund.
‘State Health Insurance and contributory schemes include HIV as an indicator disease for both testing and treatment particularly as it relates to community health insurance programme.”
The DG NACA said, “There is need to increase HIV funding. More than 70 per cent are funded by partners. It is not a sustainable solution. Small percentage of budget should be set aside to finance budget.”