No fewer than 430 prisoners across the country are now pursuing their various degree programmes at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) to enhance their status just as 951 others regained freedom due to the intervention of National Stakeholders on Prison Reforms.
Three others are said to be on the verge of completing their doctorate degree in other universities in the country.
The prisoners were allowed to enroll for the University education as part of new reforms being implemented by the Federal Government to make life out of prison meaningful for the ex-convicts.
The National Public Relations Officers of the Nigeria Prison Service (NPS) Mr. Francis Enebore revealed this in Abuja at a media briefing on the forthcoming February 1 Public Presentation of Survey Reports on the Nigerian Prisons.
Enebore said that the Open University was gracious in admitting the prisoners for their higher education to make them better citizens of the ation adding that well-meaning Nigerians, religious and corporate bodies have been assisting the ex-convicts in providing for their educational needs.
He said at a joint media briefing with the Executive Director of Prison Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) Dr. Uju Agomoh that 951 others were set free upon meeting conditions for freedom.
Among others, he said that fines imposed on the ex-convicts by various courts in the country were offset by the National Stakeholders to pave way for their final release.
Besides, the Nigerian Prisons spokesman said that prisoners are now fully engaged in the production of food for themselves and the country in the new farm settlement schemes established in some states of the federation.
At the moment, he said that 17 farm settlements in Kaduna was already producing beans in commercial quantities, Bauchi farms producing rice and Edo farms engaging in production of palm oil for the prisoners and the nation.
Enebore commended the new reform initiative stressing that the N450 feeding cost per prisoner in a day was grossly inadequate hence, the introduction of the farm settlement schemes.
He announced that 22 tractors have been procured by the federal government and distributed to prisons for the use of prisoners across the country to enhance their farming skills in the production of mainly food crops adding that a good number of tractors are also underway for delivery before the year runs out.
“In the education sector, I am pleased to announce that 430 of our prisoners are running various degree courses at the National Open University of Nigeria, the new reform efforts allowed them to access university education in order to make life out of prison meaningful for them”.
“At the same time, 951 others have been set free by the Nigerian Prison Services due to the intervention of the National Stakeholders which paid various fines imposed on them by various courts as conditions for their freedom”.
“In the agriculture, massive revolution is going on with prisoners now engaging in full scale commercial farming. At the moment, we have our farm settlement in Kaduna where the Prisoners have produced huge quantities of beans, in Bauchi where rice had been produced and Edo where our farm settlement is involved in the production of palm oil”.
“The new prison reform is aimed at making the prisoners to produce food crops and grains for their own consumption as well as the nation at large”.
“A total of 22 tractors have been procured for prisons by the federal government and distributed already. We are waiting for delivery of another batch before the year runs out”.
The prison spokesman also revealed that 217 call duty vehicles were purchased for prisons by the federal government thereby making prisoners to access courts for trial, while good medical services are also being provided in addition to good cells for the 242 prisons in the country.
Meanwhile, the survey report on the Nigerian Prisons would be formally presented to the Nigerian public on February, 1.
The survey is anchored by experts put together by the Prisons Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) as part of reforms to be put forward to the federal government for implementation that will lead to decongestion of the prisons and ensuring adequate welfare for all the inmates.