State of Nigeria's Correctional Centres
By Jude Chukwuemeka
Rotimi Oladokun - Superintendent of Prisons, Lagos State Command
Ahmed Adetola Kazeem - Executive Director Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative
Morning Crossfire pays attention to the scary state of Nigerian prisons. Show hosts emphasized the following: It is no longer news that the facilities owned by the Nigeria Correctional Centres previously called the Nigerian Prisons Services have sunk into a dilapidated state. It is in a state of despair due to over-population and there is the need for a very urgent attention.
Last week, it was revealed across the Nigerian dailies, that no fewer than five awaiting trial inmates inside the Ikoyi Medium Security Custodial Centre (Ikoyi Prison), Lagos, were electrocuted after an electric wire snapped and fell on a cell, while ten other inmates sustained injuries of various degrees.
Findings suggested that the casualties would have been more if not for the timely intervention of the medical workers in the centre. According to Mobile Punch news, more than 100 inmates were in the cell at the time of the incident that led to the electrocution of five inmates.
According to the Nigerian Correctional Service website, as at October 14, 2019, the official population of convicts and awaiting trial persons in the correctional service facilities across the country is 74,081.
Data breakdown based on gender reveals that there are 72,662 (98%) males and 1,419 females (2%) in the correctional centres across the country. Of the 22,701 (31%) inmates who have been convicted, 22,390 are males and 311 females. The remaining 51,380 (69%) persons are on awaiting trial, of which 50,272 are males and 1,108 are females.
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, has said that the federal government is committed to decongesting the correctional centres across the country by reducing the number of awaiting trial inmates.
According to Aregbesola, a committee has been set up to that effect, and the committee has been working together with the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation. He said that a new law would be provided that allows correctional officers in the facilities to reject any person that is brought from the court, who is awaiting trial. This is owing to the fact that close to 90 percent of the awaiting trial inmates are violators of state laws.
Further issues to look at are: What rights do prisoners have? What is being done about their welfare? How is it that a female prisoner gets pregnant and who cares for the baby?
Regarding the death of prisoners due to electrocution, Rotimi Oladokun says it’s unfortunate but couldn’t go into details of what happened. Sheriff counters that, saying that lives were lost. So, Rotimi confesses that there was power surge, leading to the unfortunate situation since the prisons were overcrowded. But why are more prisoners coming into the prisons when they are overcrowded? Wemimo Asks.
Rotimi answers: “The issue of overcrowding didn’t just start two years ago. It has been a progressive issue. We are looking at decongesting it progressively. The Honorable Attorney and the CJ have certain powers at their disposal that can be used at the first stage and after that, we move to the next page. There are methods to be used to decongest the prisons.
“Further, we are suggesting that instead of throwing some people in prison, could it be possible to send them to community service? Issues and solutions are ongoing. As I have said, we have the power to accept and reject prisoners but we would rather engage with our stakeholders.
Ahmed Adetola Kazeem has instigated a suit based on the electrocution that happened. Wemimo requests that he offers more insight about the suit. He says the suit will “stem this type of overcrowding because it is endemic. This electrocution thing is just what we are seeing, we are not talking about the diseases, health and a lot of other issues the inmates are having.
“This is not the first time that we have laws, committee set up… it has always been like that for the past 20 years. Unfortunately, the more laws they have, the more committees they have, the more inmates they have too. We have lost at least five inmates. There could be more because some are in coma. This suit is basically for that but the issue of compensation may come later. In this case, we are suing the federal government, not the prison officials.”
The five inmates who lost their lives were awaiting trial.
Femi Taiwo commenting on Facebook, wrote the following: "I wish we can separate people on trial who are just pick up during raid from people who are on trial or real prisoners. Sometimes people get picked up and before you know they find themselves among prisoners."
What are your thoughts about Nigerian prisons?
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