Nigerian prisons filled with awaiting trial detainees

Over-population in the Nigerian prison system has been identified as the challenge to prison reform. More than 70 per cent of over 50,000 inmates across the country are awaiting trial.

Leadership reports that this was revealed by the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Prisons, Mr. Zakari Ohinoyi Ibrahim, yesterday during the opening ceremony of training course organised by Prisoners' Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) International through its Human Rights Training Integration Project (HRTI) at the Savanah Hotels, Abuja.

Mr. Ibrahim lamented the funding levels of prisons and expressed the hope that the situation would change for the better when policy makers realise the security implications of underfunding prisons.

“We in the prisons have our own challenges first we have a large awaiting trial population that has refused to go down. As I speak to you today, over 50,000 people are in custody, and 36,000 of this number are awaiting trial persons. This makes us work more to contain than reform,” he said.

On the rights of prisoners, he said: “Prisoners are human persons who may have lost their liberties by coming into conflict with the law. Yes, they have lost their liberties and other rights by being in custody but there are some very basic inalienable rights they must enjoy even in custody as these rights are guaranteed in law.”

Speaking at the occasion, the executive director of PRAWA and project director  of Prison Reform Interventions in Africa, Dr. Uju Agomoh, said the training course was aimed at improving the awareness and observance of international human rights principles and good prison practice in Nigerian custody facilities.

She said that training of a pool of regional, state and prison training institution-based trainers on international human rights standards and good prison practices was underway.

The Chairperson of African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, Mrs. Catherine Dupe Atoki, said the conditions in Nigerian prisons should be improved upon as prisoners have the right to live in a decent environment and not in a pigsty, adding that the prisoners had a right not be subjected to inhuman conditions.

“Prisoners’ rights are guaranteed and should be enforced. Prison authorities have to be accountable for how they handle persons kept in their care and as agents of state, prison officers should know the regional and international instruments that guarantee the rights of prisoners,” she said.

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