Nigeria to Buy 320 Black Maria Vehicles at N3.5bn from Local Manufacturers
The federal government has announced plans to purchase 320 operational vehicles otherwise called Black Maria for the Nigerian Prison Service as part of efforts to reduce prison congestion.
The vehicles to be procured at a total cost of N3.5 billion are to be purchased from local manufacturers and assembly points, according to interior minister, Mr Abdulraman Dambazzau.
The plan to purchase the Black Maria vehicles was approved by the federal executive council (FEC) at its weekly meeting on Wednesday after a memo to that effect was presented by Dambazzau.
Dambazzau addressed newsmen at the end of the FEC meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, alongside the minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, and his Petroleum Resources counterpart, Dr Ibe Kachikwu.
The interior minister said the planned procurement of the vehicles was part of efforts to strengthen the criminal justice system in Nigeria.
Vanguard reports that Dambazzau also decried a situation where many prison inmates had remained in detention for lack of vehicles and other logistics to take them to court.
The minister pegged the number of inmates presently held in the country’s prisons at about 65,000, 70 percent of whom were awaiting trial. He added that the inmates had suffered unjustly in detention for lack of vehicles to take them to about 5,022 courts in the country.
“This procurement is from local manufacturers, assemblies and vendors within Nigeria and the effort is to follow through government policy to ensure that most of the procurement of the equipment and such vehicles are done locally. That will also provide opportunity for job creation,” Dambazzau said.
Persons conversant with the criminal justice system in Nigeria may however find the minister’s proposed solution to prison congestion, confusing if not misplaced.
The delay in criminal trial is more often caused by police inefficiency, slow documentation processes at the various justice departments and overburdened courts among other similar inadequacies. It is hardly ever a function of the inability of the prison officials to convey the suspects to court.
Furthermore, it is hard to see how new vehicles can translate into enhanced living conditions within the prisons which may be a more urgent need. As the minister noted, nearly 70 percent of prison inmates are awaiting trial and far exceed the designed capacity of existing prison facilities.
Building better facilities as well as working with the ministries of Justice and Departments of Public Prosecution in various states to remove bureaucratic bottlenecks may help speed up justice for suspects far more than new vehicles can.
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