The Nigerian Senate has decried the situation in Nigeria’s major Prisons, describing it as appalling.
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.
In Ilesa Prison in Osun State, 454 out of 582 inmates are awaiting trial, a situation that an official 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.
Mr Fanimikun gave reasons for the large number of inmates awaiting trials while receiving Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdul-Rasheed Akanbi and his team into the premises of the prison.
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.
He disclosed that the prison needed at least 20 vehicles, medical facilities and consumables.
According to him, some of the inmates supposed to have been referred for further treatment in more advanced medical facilities are still being treated within the prison, because of unavailability of funds.
On their parts, some of the inmates pleaded with the state government to grant inmates with good conduct state pardon and commended officials of the prison for doing their best to better their lot.
Channels Television’s correspondent, Bosede Sodiq said that officials of Ilesa prisons make efforts to maintain the prison ensuring that it was not so congested.
“The rooms are not overcrowded and the female section is neat,” Bosede said.
Turn A New Leaf
Addressing reporters after his tour of the facility, Oba Akanbi said that his mission was to have a first-hand experience of what was happening within the wall of the prisons and see areas he could intervene.
The royal father urged inmates not to see their status as end of life and advised them to ensure they turn a new leaf and be close to God even in their situation.
The Oluwo of Iwo further frowned at a situation where inmates spend several years in prison awaiting conclusion of their trial and offered to pay fine of those with mild fines.
“I find it very painful that inmates have stayed here for so long without trial.
“I want to appeal to the Chief Judge of Osun State in person of Justice Adepele-Ojo to please, find time to visit this prison and look into the plight of these people.
“Many of them have been here for about three to four years, even eight years. If they had been convicted, maybe their term would probably be just six months or one year and they have been here far longer than that,” the Oba Said.
Harsh treatment of ex-convicts by Nigerian society has been identified as the major challenge militating against successful integration of prisoners after completing their terms, but he Oba gave the inmate hope.
“We need to see these people as humans.
“They have sinned and many of them have changed from their old ways. As they leave the prison, it behoves on us to accept them into the society and not stigmatise them. Stigmatisation makes these people go back to their old ways.
“Let us visit them while they are here and encourage them to become better persons,” he added.