Sunday, November 15, 2015

UPDATES: Food scarcity looms in prisons over N6bn debt

Prisons inmates across the country may be thrown into hunger from December if urgent steps are not taken to settle the outstanding bills of food contractors.
The contractors, under the aegis of Nigeria Prison Service Ration and Gas Contractors, have already made their intention to stop supplying food and gas to prisons from December known in a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari.
A copy of the letter, dated November 13 and sighted by our correspondent on Sunday, was jointly signed by the association’s President, Chief S. K. Sanni; National Secretary, Mr. Eugene Agro; and the National Vice President (North West), Alhaji Ibrahim A. Asarakawa.
The Minister of Interior and the Comptroller-General of Prisons, among other top government officials, were copied.
The contractors informed Buhari that the Federal Government’s indebtedness to them currently stands at N6bn.
They said with the outstanding bill, they no longer have the financial capacity to source for food and gas with which they could supply the prisons.
They therefore appealed to the President and the minister in charge of prisons to intervene in the matter by ensuring that the backlog is cleared.
They made it clear that if the debt was not paid by the end of this month, they might not be able to supply food items and gas in December, as they have exhausted not only their financial resources but also the sources where they have been getting the money to do business.
The contractors stated that they have not been paid for the supply of food items and gas to the prisons since January this year.
The situation, they added, forced them to resort to taking bank loans with all the accumulative interests, even as some of them sold their houses and other properties in order to meet up.
In the years past, the contractors said the Federal Government used to pay them two weeks ahead of time.
They wondered why the system changed to the extent that they were the ones using their money to buy the food items and gas for the prisons before they were reimbursed.
They urged the President to act fast in order to forestall stoppage of food to prisons, a situation which they said poses a great danger to the fragile security of the country.
The contractors advised Buhari to mobilise funds from any source to settle them in order to forestall the national embarrassment that hunger in prisons could cause his government which has security as one of its priorities.
The letter read in part, “Needless to say that if prisoners and inmates of the nation’s prisons are not fed for two days, they could go haywire and the consequences are not good to imagine.
“We do not want any national embarrassment for Mr. President and his new government.
“We are therefore appealing to the Commander-In-Chief to mobilise funds from anywhere to settle our bill before it is too late, knowing that top on his priority is security.
“We have endured long enough.”