Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Nigerian prison official dies by suicide after passing three exams without promotion

Alfred Bassa took lethal Sniper pesticide to protest injustice in the Nigerian Correctional Service, a month before he was to get married.

• October 6, 2020
Alfred Bassa, an assistant superintendent of prisons
Alfred Bassa, an assistant superintendent of prisons.

A Nigerian correctional officer has died by suicide after being denied promotion for three consecutive times, Peoples Gazette can report, marking yet another case that adds an urgency to growing injustice within the Nigerian Correctional Service.

Alfred Bassa, an assistant superintendent of prisons, wrote promotional examinations three times, passed three times and suffered denial from correctional authorities three times, the Gazette learnt from three sources, including a senior colleague, knowledgeable about the incident.

“He decided to end the nightmare by taking his own life,” one of his senior colleagues told the Gazette under anonymity for fear of any reprimand because he was not an authorised correctional spokesperson.

Mr. Bassa, 28, brought a Sniper bottle with him when he arrived at work at the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Keffi, drinking the lethal pesticide in his uniform, sources said.

Colleagues said Mr. Bassa did not appear to suffer from any mental health crises before the incident. Sniper has been banned in Nigeria because of its frequent use for suicide, but the product has remained in circulation. Suicide prevention centres are rare in the country, and the only reachable one in Lagos has cut its response hours due to the pandemic.

The tragedy on October 2 sent the entire facility into panic, and prison authorities in Abuja swiftly moved in to hush it, sources said.

His demise came as the correctional service was promoting officers to new ranks. The approvals were communicated last week to affected officers, which did not include Mr. Bassa, an official said.

Mr. Bassa was scheduled to get married to his long-time sweetheart on November 19, 2020, when the humiliation of being denied promotion for the third time became too much for him to absorb.

“He has watched as his contemporaries were being selectively promoted, including some who did not even pass promotional examinations,” an official said. He should have been at least promoted to assistant superintendent of prison II bar the injustice, his colleague said.

Mr. Bassa’s colleagues said they became demoralised after the incident and began mulling over their future at the correctional office.

The correctional authorities have failed to pursue a closure on the tragedy, scrambling instead to hush it up, officials said.

Ja’afaru Ahmed, comptroller-general of corrections did not return a request seeking comments. A spokesperson for the correctional office was unavailable for comments Tuesday evening.

Prisons CG Ja'afaru Ahmed. [CREDIT: Official Twitter handle of Prisons]
Prisons CG Ja’afaru Ahmed. [CREDIT: Official Twitter handle of Nigerian Correctional Service]

The Gazette learnt that the matter was escalated to interior minister Rauf Aregbesola, who failed to take action. 

“He did not show any care about the young man that died when he was informed about it,” an official said. “Neither did he even bother to say he would launch an investigation into the injustice of selective promotion.” 

The Nigerian Correctional Service and its sister interior agencies have long faced allegations of injustice and gross misuse of power with regards to personnel promotion and other career progression policies.

In 2018, an Abuja residence sued the correctional service after being suspended from work for protesting selective promotion. The Immigration Service has faced similar allegations over the years. 

The multiple cases across the agencies strongly suggest a perverse culture of injustice at the services. 

“They only promote based on ethnicity, faith and your financial status,” an official said. “It is unspeakable the level of fraud and injustice that comes with promotions in the service.”

Federal authorities have always denied allegations of corruption in promotion, saying they usually come from lazy officers who often seek to rise through the ranks without actually putting in the efforts required.

Mr. Bassa’s family, from Nasarawa State, said they would file charges to enforce his posthumous promotion. 

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