All not right at Correctional Services

Editorial, Normal

The National, Tuesday February 9th, 2016

 SOMETHING is not quite right at the department of Correctional Services (CS) when its own head has to come out publically saying members of his staff have unlawfully, it seems, removed fire arms from their armoury.

Commissioner Michael Waipo said over the weekend that a break-in at the Bomana Training College armoury resulted in the removal of guns allegedly by certain prison officers, putting the lives of people within the CS at risk.

It is a serious case that needs to be addressed by the state in order to avert a potentially violent scenario unfolding on the city outskirts, or worse yet in the city itself.

The reason behind the commandeering of the firearms seems to be tied with vested political interests in the department and the leadership which is supposedly going to be affected.

According to Commissioner Waipo the rogue elements in his department are responsible.

The primary issue now is that regardless of whether the state was planning on some kind of shake up of the department or if Wapio himself was in the process cleaning out the CS closet, you have guns in the hands of men, who do not respect their leader or the establishment.

That could spell serious problems for the public at large given that the possibility of these weapons finding their way into criminal hands is real.

That alone should force the hand of the Government and compel them to send in the police to investigate the theft and to recover the guns before they fall into the wrong hands.

One cannot help but to speculate that with a national election some 18 months away these missing weapons could end up being 

used for more dastardly purposes related to intimidation and threats in regions of the country where there have been instances of this kind of behaviour during polling.

One hopes that this is not the case but the possibility has to be entertained.

Going back to the removal of the guns, one has to ask what would be the urgent need to break protocol and take property belonging to the state especially of this nature and keep it in ones possession.

The country is not at war. There is no state of emergency, nor is there any external threat that is impinging the rights of innocent civilians. 

Why then would officers, as Waipo claims carry out such an act?

If indeed these were officers, one would assume the commissioner would have a fair idea of who they are and for what purpose they have taken the weapons.

Correctional Service Training Commandant Bernard Nepo described the break-in last Thursday as “highly suspicious”.

The circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the guns paints a troubling picture of what goes on at the college in Bomana and if there any kind of control and discipline present among the rank and file.

Nepo claims on the night in question, some prison officers were drunk and firing shots in the air. 

Nepo says the armoury was open but insists no weapons were taken however the following day a set of keys were forcibly taken from him. 

The identity of the people involved must be known to Nepo and Waipo. 

One finds it highly unlikely that both these men are operating in a vacuum without the slightest inclination of what is taking place in their own back yards. 

The issue now is whether they have the fortitude to name these so-called rogue elements.

This matter must be settled as soon as possible 

and every weapon accounted.

Moreover, heads must roll whether from the top or from middle management or wherever the source of the discontent.

It is clear that the Correctional Services is made up of factions and that the leadership does not have the control of the whole.

That will always pose a problem for any force and the only way to solve 

the problem is to find the cause of the problem among the ranks and remove it 

or replace the leadership with one that will garner the following of the entire body.

The first course seems to be the better but more difficult choice. 

The second would be the easiest. 

The question now becomes which course of action to take.