Senate Sees ‘Appalling Situation’ In Nigeria’s Prisons
It pointed out that the prisons needed improvement, something that a bill for an Act to repeal and re-enact the Prison Act may be addressing at the completion of the process.
The bill, which was brought before the Senate for its second reading on Wednesday, was sponsored by Senator Shaba Lafiagi. He also led the debate on the bill.
Another Senator, Jide Omoworare, commenting on the bill, said: “Prisoners come home even worst. We need to redirect appropriations already made and rehabilitate our prisons”.
Training Ground For Criminals
The condition of most of the prisons do not provide for nursing mothers that are still serving their jail terms and Senator Oluremi Tinubu, expressed displeasure with the situation.
She said: “There is need for a Crèche, Nursery and a separate facility to improve conditions of Nursing Mothers and Children in Prison”.
On his part, Senator Shehu Sani, told the senate that “the only thing that has changed in our Prisons in recent times is the uniform of inmates”.
An ex-convict, Mr Kayode Williams, who advocates rehabilitation or prisoners and the nation’s prisons had in 2014 referred to the nation’s prisons as a training ground for hardened criminals and Senator Gbenga Ashafa corroborated that claim when he stressed that he was particular about the improvement and attitudinal change of inmates.
Another lawmaker, Senator Utazi Chukwuka, narrated the deplorable state of Enugu Prisons which he said brought tears to his eyes.
For Senator Musa Kwankwaso, modern prisons should be built to accommodate prisoners. He also stressed that there were so many challenges with the operators too.
After most of the Senators had contributed, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, highlighted that the lawmakers were working towards moving Prisons from Exclusive list to Concurrent list. Items in the exclusive list are solely handled by the Federal government.
He appreciated the sponsors of the Prison Bill, pointing out that it will help improve conditions of Prisoners in Nigeria.
After the deliberations, Prison Bills numbered, five, six and seven were read and passed for Second Reading.
The Deputy Senate President then referred the bill to the Senate’s Committee on Interior and Judiciary to report back in four weeks.
Most prisons in Nigeria are conjected, having more suspects in custody than the already convicted persons.
A prisons official in Ilesa Prison in Osun State had on September 24, said 454 out of 582 inmates were awaiting trial, a situation he said was as a result of huge challenges facing the Prisons Service.
The officer in charge of the Prisons, Deputy Comptroller Ope Fanimikun, said that presenting 454 inmates for trial in 72 courts was a huge challenge for officers.
He said that the Prisons service had just four vehicles, the newest of which was given to the prisons four years ago.
The Deputy Comptroller sought the support of Nigerians in form of vehicles’ donation to ensure that inmates were presented for trials to decongest the prisons.
After he listed these challenges, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the sum of 3.5 billion Naira to procure 320 made-in-Nigeria vehicles to aid prisons decongestion across the country.
The approval was in response to the request in a memo presented at a FEC meeting by the Minister of Interior, General Abdulrahaman Dambazau (rtd).
General Dambazau noted that the procurement of vehicles was part of requirements needed to strengthen the criminal justice system.
He told State House correspondents after the meeting in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, that at least 75% of an estimated 65,000 inmates were awaiting trial.
The Interior Minister blamed their continued detention on lack of logistics and availability of vehicles to transport them to at least 5,000 courts from prisons within the country.