Prison inmates all over the country might experience hard times beginning from January 2016 if the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) failed to settle an outstanding debt of about N9 billion owed its contractors who cater for the feeding of the prisoners. The contractors have threatened to stop feeding the inmates until their debts were settled. They lamented the nonpayment of accumulated arrears as they have indebtedness to commercial banks who financed their contracts.
If the contractors make good their threat, about 50,000 inmates might be forced to starve, a situation that could lead to unrest and jail breaks. One of the contractors, who spoke to New Telegraph on condition of anonymity, revealed that many of the contractors were aggrieved because they had expected the bills to be settled before the Christmas holidays.
According to him, the Federal Government was not fair to them, as most of the contractors could not celebrate the Christmas festivities with their families because of lack of funds.
He disclosed that some of the contractors had as much as N10 million cheque to collect from government as payment for services rendered to the Prisons Service in the last three months. A number of contractors, he said, have not been paid for upwards of five months after they had committed their own funds to feeding the inmates.
His words: “It is obvious that prison inmates all over the country might have challenges of being fed as from January next year as we are likely to stop feeding them until our outstanding arrears are paid. “Most of us could not be part of this year’s Christmas celebration, as Federal Government has not paid our monies.
Some of these monies are bank loans that come with high interest. “If you use your money to feed people on behalf of government and you can’t feed your family, you can see it is not a good thing.
If nothing happens fast, the inmates would not be fed in January.” However, the Prisons Service has appealed to the contractors to exercise more patience while efforts were being made to address their request. Spokesperson of the Service, Mr. Francis Enobore, told New Telegraph that this was not the first time the contractors would be issuing such threats.
According to him, the last time they did, they met with the Controller General of Prisons, Dr. Peter Ekpendu and he assured them that their payment was being processed.
Enobore explained that the Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulraham Dambazua (rtd) had also received the complaints of the contractors and had given assurance that the debts would be accommodated in the 2016 budget currently before the National Assembly. Available statistics shows that inmates in Nigerian Prisons are entitled to a feeding allowance of N450 per day/per person.