The federal government has approved N3.5 billion for the procurement of 320 operational vehicles to convey prison inmates to courts for their trials.

According to Abdulrahman Dambazzau, minister of interior, the approval was made at Wednesday’s federal executive council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Dambazzau explained that the vehicles were crucial to the operations of the Nigerian Prison Service.

He said 70 per cent of the 65,000 inmates across the country were awaiting trial due to lack of utility vehicles to convey them to court.

Dambazzau said the vehicles to be bought will be sourced from local manufacturers in order to promote made-in-Nigeria goods and also create employment.

‎”In our efforts to strengthen criminal justice system and to also contribute towards decongesting the system, we presented a memo for the procurement of 320 operational vehicles for the prison service at the cost of N3.5 billion,” he said.

“This procurement is from local manufacturers, assemblers and vendors within Nigeria and the effort is to follow through government’s 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 and things like that.

“But for the prison system in particular, we are making efforts‎ in a way, the prisons, being one of the legs of the criminal justice system, the others being the police and the judiciary, to see how best we improve in terms of conveying prison inmates to courts in particular so that we do not jeopardize their chances of their getting justice‎.

“And this has been happening because for a very long time, the prison system has suffered lack of operational vehicles and as such quite a number of prisoners remain in prisons longer than necessary because they do not have the opportunity to be conveyed to the courts. So this is the essence of this.

“So‎ we are glad that council approved this procurement. And along the line, we want also to ensure that we provide for maintenance to ensure that the vehicles are well maintained and that there used for purpose there are meant‎ to be used.

“The prison population as of today stands at about 65,000. Out of this, about 70 per cent are awaiting trial. And part of the problem is lack of logistics, because there are 5,022 courts that, on daily basis, we have to convey prisoners to, for their cases.”

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