The Nigerian Prisons Service, NPS, recently announced the establishment of a second all-female prison in Nigeria. Peter Tenkwa, the Controller of NPS in Adamawa, confirmed the development in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria in Yola.
Mr. Tenkwa said that the development followed the ongoing restructuring of the Nigeria Prison Services to be gender sensitive.
“The Nigerian Prisons Service has established the second female prison in Nigeria after that of Kiri-kiri Female Prison in Lagos.
“The Numan Old Prison in Adamawa is now the second female prison in Nigeria with a total capacity of 400 inmates; currently there are six inmates in the prison,’’ Mr. Tenkwa said. He said that seven out of the 17 prisons in the state were destroyed by the Boko Haram insurgency when he assumed duty in June 2016. According to him, with the collaboration of state government and the prison department the Mubi, Maiha and Ganye prisons were renovated and put back to operation. Mr. Tenkwa said that Mubi, Maiha and Ganye prisons currently had 184, 43 and 145 inmates, respectively.
NAN reports that sequel to establishment of the female prison in Numan, the male prisoners in the Numan Old Prison were taken to a new prison that had be opened in Numan. The Nigerian Prison Service has disclosed that over 68,000 inmates are accommodated in the prison facilities throughout the country as at March 2017, according to the Controller General of Nigerian Prison Service, Jaafaru Ahmed.
Ahmed said the agency has reopened prison farm centres towards self-sufficiency in food production.
Speaking on the current figure of the inmates, Ahmed said: “As at March 6, 2017, total inmates population stands at 68,259. “Out of this number, 46,351 are awaiting trial persons, and the remaining 21,903 are convicted.
“In terms of percentage, the convicted is 32 per cent, while awaiting trial persons is 68 per cent.“Though the figures are not static as they go up and down.” Ahmed also disclosed that the Prison Service had commenced the rehabilitation of its various farming centers with the purchase of 22 tractors that would lead the Service to specialize in food productions enough to feed the inmates and for sale to the general public. The prison boss said: “In the 2016 budget, we purchased so many farm machineries like tractors and other kinds of implements.
“We have also dug so many boreholes, fish farming and the rest of them.“These would be used to reposition our farm centers. “What we intend to do when the budget for 2017 is passed is that we have picked three out of 14 farm centres.
“The idea is to make sure that we specialize in different farming processes.
“Like Kujama, we intend to set it up strictly for the production of maize. “We want to see the production of maize all year round, not only during the raining season, but also during the dry season.
“We have budgeted some amount of money to sink boreholes for irrigation purposes to ensure the success of these programmes.
“We have picked Lampushi farm center strictly for rice production and the possibility of producing rice during both raining season and dry season.“We have also taken Ozalla for the production of palm oil. “These are three pilot projects we intend to do this year to see the possibility of whether the prison can actually feed itself.”
Ahmed further said the Service is looking at mechanization.
He said: “We are looking at mechanization where the crops to be produced would be in large quantity both for self and sale outside.
“The process would reduce the manual labour and subsequently enhance production. “The development will no doubt bring on board storage facilities when fully integrated so that all the areas will have comparative advantage.”
Speaking on the synergy existing among the three arms of the criminal justice system, Ahmed said the Prison is the last bus stop and only a custodian of all the parties, namely the judiciary cum the prosecution authority, which is the Ministry of Justice, the police and the prisons.
Ahmed noted that so long as anybody knocks on the door with valid warrant and appropriate papers, “we have no option but to receive such persons”.
He canvassed for a genuine collaboration among the three arms of the criminal justice system to enhance synergy so that the case of anybody brought to prison as awaiting trial will be determined as quickly as possible, stressing that other arms have to do their part so that there would be quick dispensation of justice.
The Nigerian prisons are very congested, and the development has become a major concern to the prison authorities, the judiciary and the police.
Over the years, inmates have outnumbered the capacity of prison cells and facilities at the prisons are being overstretched. Nigeria has 228 prisons housing 68, 259 inmates.
145 prisons are for convicts while 83 serve as satellite prison camps. There are also three Borstal institutions for juvenile offenders. The two types of convicts’ prisons operational in Nigeria are the Maximum and the Medium Security Prisons.
The Satellite Prisons are built to serve as intermediate camps for the areas with courts that are far from the main prisons. But the cells in most of the prisons are old and tiny.
A recent visit to prisons in Kaduna, Enugu, Oko and Kano revealed that apart from being old and small, the cells are also overcrowded. The Ikoyi Prisons in Lagos State which has capacity for 800 inmates currently has over 1,500 people awaiting trial. The Kuje Prisons in Abuja has more than 600 inmates, including 85 convicts and 585 awaiting trial.
Amnesty International, in its 2008 report, declared that Nigeria’s prisons are filled with people whose human rights are systematically violated. It stated that 65 per cent of the inmates are awaiting trial.
Most of them, the organization said, have been waiting on that list for many years because they are too poor to pay lawyers.
It is only one out seven of the people awaiting trial that have private legal representation, the report noted. According to an African Focus bulletin of 2008, the Nigerian Government has not implemented the recommendations of many study groups and presidential committees over the recent years.
It said that few of the promises made by the Nigerian government have been carried out and this has led to the current problems being experienced in the country’s prisons.
“The opening of prisons to non-governmental organizations has had a positive effect: NGOs bring food, educational materials and lawyers into the prisons. They organize religious activities, offer counseling and teach inmates. However, NGOs are not primarily responsible for the welfare of the inmates. It is time the Nigerian government faced up to its responsibilities for those in its prisons,” the bulletin stated.
Studies revealed that those problems in the prison system still persist today. Some concerned Nigerians attributed the upsurge in the congestion of prisons to indiscriminate arrest of innocent citizens by the police.
This overcrowding could have negative effects on the physical and mental
health of inmates. Since there are not enough resources to take care of inmates, malnutrition and poor health facilities become prevalent. This also increases the inmates’ susceptibility to assault among themselves.
In fact, according to amnesty international, Nigeria’s prisons are filled with people whose human rights are systematically violated. Approximately 65 per cent of the inmates are awaiting trial most of whom have been waiting for their trial for years. Most of the people in Nigeria’s prisons are too poor to be able to pay lawyers, and only one in seven of those awaiting trial have private legal representation.
Although governmental legal aid exists, there are too few legal aid lawyers for all the cases that require representation. Living conditions in the prisons are appalling.
They are damaging to the physical and mental well-being of inmates and in many cases constitute clear threats to health. Conditions such as overcrowding, poor sanitation, lack of food and medicines and denial of contact with families and friends fall short of UN standards for the treatment of prisoners.
The worst conditions constitute ill-treatment. In many Nigerian prisons inmates sleep two to a bed or on the floor in filthy cells. Toilets are blocked and overflowing or simply nonexistent, and there is no running water. As a result, disease is widespread.
Most prisons have small clinics or sick bays which lack medicines, and in many prisons inmates have to pay for their own medicines. Guards frequently demand that inmates pay bribes for such “privileges” as visiting the hospital, receiving visitors, contacting their families and, in some cases, being allowed outside their cells at all.
Prisoners with money may be even allowed mobile phones, whereas those without funds can be left languishing in their cells.
One inmate said: “If you don’t have money, if you come to prison, you will suffer. They collect money from you. It is not right.” The Nigerian government has, on numerous occasions, stated its willingness to reform the criminal justice system, acknowledging its role in creating a situation of prolonged detention and overcrowding.
Despite many Presidential Commissions and Committees recommending reform of the criminal justice system, these recommendations have not been implemented. Instead, the government has simply set up new committees and commissions to study, review and harmonize the previous recommendations.
The reality remains that those in prison stand little chance of their rights being respected. Those who lack money stand even less chance.
All too often, individuals who are not suspected of committing any crime are incarcerated in Nigeria’s prisons along with those suspected or convicted of crimes. Some were arrested in place of a family member whom the police could not locate. Others suffer from mental illness and were brought to prison to relieve their families of responsibility for their care. Most are very poor people who have no lawyer to advocate for them.
The Nigerian Constitution (Section 35) guarantees the right to be brought before a court of law within a reasonable time. If there is a court of competent jurisdiction within 40km, a reasonable time is defined as one day; in all other cases “reasonable” is considered to be two days or longer, depending on the distances and circumstances.
In practice, this is hardly ever accomplished. The Nigeria Police Force claim they cannot investigate a crime and interrogate suspects within such a short time, saying: “There is no case that you can crack within 24 hours unless it is a traffic offence.
It is important to note that, Amnesty International concludes that Nigeria does not take seriously its responsibility towards its citizens in prison. Recommendations made by national and international organizations have failed to lead to any action by the government.
The recommendations of all governmental committees and commissions appear to be little more than words, which have left the real situation in Nigeria’s prisons unchanged. Inmates awaiting trial – especially those who cannot afford legal support – wait years for their trial to take place; the prisons remain overcrowded; prison authorities do not appear to receive the funds that have been allocated to improving conditions. Amnesty International is extremely concerned that few of the Nigerian government’s promises have been translated into action.
However, the prison government should be commended for building new female prison, in an attempt to decongest the prisons as well as properly rehabilitate inmates, however, more of such prisons should be built across the country with modern facilities, albeit, the country is in a recession but we must not forget those behind the bars, as they are human beings too.
Ayobolu, a public affairs analyst contributed this piece from Lagos State.