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Tag Archives: Nigeria Prisons

Bringing Hope to Prisoners in Nigeria

By Sunday Adaji Esq

prisoners

One fact about prisoners is that one after the other, virtually all of them will be out of prison and back into the society, breathing the air of freedom. What is therefore worthy of consideration is the life they live in prison and the life they will be living when they return to the society.

As it were, prisons are built not just to incarcerate and punish criminals but to reform them. “Reform” here implies putting facilities in place which will help to bring out the best in the prisoners and make them responsible citizens, so that instead of becoming hardened criminals; they become law abiding citizens. This way, the society becomes the better for it.

Although prisons are meant to reform prisoners, the ones in Nigeria rarely serve this function. Experience has shown that prisoners return from prisons in Nigeria to become hardened criminals. In this country, available statistics point to the fact that many prisoners who have completed their prison terms go back to the same acts of criminalities that took them to prison in the first place, and may even become worse than ever.

Perhaps, one of the reasons prisoners are hardly reformed is that the government has not put proper structures in place for the desired reformation and rehabilitation. Visits to our prisons will reveal that the conditions in them are deplorable. Apart from the fact that our prisons are congested, there are no adequate social amenities. There is poor ventilation, poor medical facilities and little or no sports facilities. The inadequacy or complete absence of these facilities make life unbearable to prisoners and even defeat the whole essence of the exercise.

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It is important we remind ourselves that prisoners have rights and are entitled to enjoy these rights even while in prison. In the United States and other civilized societies, prisoners enjoy their rights to education, to medical treatment, to conducive accommodation and to good ventilation. In such climes, prisoners come out of prisons to become better citizens, principally because of the quality of facilities in place. In the U.S, it is easy to recall the likes of great motivational blogger, Steve Pavlina and the former world heavy weight boxing champions, Sony Liston and Mike Tyson. These men were jailed at different times for some offences they committed and while in prison developed their talents that eventually made them become better American citizens. If these were Nigerians and kept in Nigerian prisons, they would have ended up as hardened criminals.

 Bettering the Lots of Prisoners in Nigeria

Within every human being is the capacity to be good and to be better. The first step to bringing the best out of prisoners and making them responsible citizens is to put in place frameworks, structures and facilities required for their reformation and rehabilitation. If all a prisoners is required to do is to serve his prison terms, then, we are far from making him a better citizen. The secret to reforming and rehabilitating prisoners is to invest in them. And to do this, we must stop seeing them as criminals who are not fit to live in society; and start seeing them as citizens who need reorientation and reformation. It is when we start doing this that we will be prepared to put in place frameworks and facilities that will enable them become better citizens. It is interesting to note that a Bill on prison reforms is already before the current National Assembly, waiting to be passed into law. When and if passed, the law will go a long way to solving most of the problems bedeviling this institution.

In the meantime, for any reforms to achieve tangible results, adequate attention must be paid to the issues below:

  1. Provision of Adequate Social Amenities in Prisons

Currently, only few prisons in Nigeria can boast of any medical, housing and sports facilities. And even where these are available, they are in a state of comatose. If we are going to bring hope to prisoners, we must be ready to make their welfare and future a priority. Prisoners are human beings and not animals. Even animals have rights and in civilized societies, the rights being respected and enforced. It is instructive that under our Criminal and Penal Codes, it is an offence to maltreat animals, much more human beings. Government should take a cue from international best practices all over the world and do something urgent on the state of our prisons.

  1. Provision of Educational and Training Facilities in Prisons

It is pathetic and embarrassing that only few Nigerian prisons (Lagos, Onitsha and Jos) have educational facilities for prisoners. Education is, perhaps, the greatest investment we can make on the prisoners. If schools are built in prisons and prisoners are trained, their capacity to become better citizens is enhanced and the society at large will be better for it.

Conclusion

The recent report that 35 inmates in Jos prison would be participating in the November/December 2018 WASSCE (West African Senior School Certificate of Education) examinations having been sponsored by the National Industrial Training Fund came as a big relief. More heart gladdening is also the disclosure that the prison in Onitsha has vocational training facilities for prisoners. It is hoped that these developments will be replicated in the other prisons in Nigeria so that inmates can start benefitting immensely from them.

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Four executions in Edo State, the end of the moratorium

Press Release – Avocats Sans Frontières France / Lawyers Without Borders France

Abuja, June 25, 2013

Avocats Sans Frontières France (ASFF) condemns in strong terms the execution by hanging of 4 inmates on death row on Monday June 24, 2013, in Edo State, Nigeria. These executions were carried out despite the application for stay of execution by a human rights organisation. The executed inmates still had rights to appeal the decision of the Federal High Court.

Recall that in October 2012, the execution warrants of the just executed inmates were signed but a legal suit was filed by the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) an NGO to stop the execution. Although the judgment delivered on Monday in this case was not in favour of the inmates, an appeal was promptly filed against this decision. Unfortunately the appeal was not respected and the executions were carried out in total disregard of the processes filed before the court. ASF France has been rightly informed that the Attorney General of Edo state and the Nigerian prisons were duly served with the court processes comprising of the notice of appeal and motion for stay of execution.

President Goodluck Jonathan had on Fathers’ day celebration June 16, 2013 in Abuja directed governors to exercise their constitutional responsibility of signing death warrants for condemned prisoners. ASF France condemned President Jonathan’s directive and called on the Nigerian government to respect its self imposed moratorium on execution.

The move by the federal government to resume execution of over 700 inmates on death row in Nigeria is contrary to commitments made by the Nigerian government at international level and is a huge dent on the human rights record of Nigeria. In November 2008, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights at its 44th Ordinary Session in Abuja, Nigeria, adopted a resolution calling on state parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to observe a moratorium on the death penalty.

Since 2001, ASFF has been working in the defence of human rights, especially in the fight against death penalty, torture and other inhuman, cruel or degrading punishments.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2013 in Human Rights

 

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NIGERIA PRISON DECONGESTION : LAWYERS ALERT’S MODEL

As at January 2013, there were 52,904 prisoners in Nigeria, with only 16,103 as convicts. The remaining 60% are awaiting trial prisoners, who are awaiting decision on their matters, or for their trial to commence.

This is no news in Nigeria. The news is that; some of these awaiting trial prisoners spend as much as 11 years awaiting trial. Most exhaust the time they would have spent if found guilty, awaiting trial.

More alarming is that even when they are released for want of evidence after several years, no compensation is made or paid out.

Lawyers Alert owing to the above situation made efforts at resolving this using Benue State as a pilot, particularly the Makurdi Federal Prisons.

Our first attempt was to visit the prison and carry out a census of all awaiting trial inmates that were unrepresented by Lawyers and/or could not afford Lawyers. 70% of the inmates were awaiting trial prisoners and about 518 had no Lawyers representing them after spending average of 2 years awaiting trial.

We thereafter began offering free legal assistance to these prisoners, securing bail for about 113 in a year.
While this was a feat, we knew our efforts still fell very short, it was a vicious cycle, as we took prisoners out, more came in, and Lawyers Alert was easily overwhelmed.

This method was not sustainable and certainly cannot resolve the issue, was the realization.

It was at this point, we carried out a study on what exactly are the issues. For the purpose of this write up, we will not go into the reasons, except to say that the reasons exhibited a cardinal lesson.

Lesson is, there cannot be a sustainable, lasting, and result oriented resolution of awaiting trial prisoners in Nigeria without the involvement of all the sectors of the Criminal Justice Sector.
These sectors are the Police, who make the arrest, the Solicitor-General office, that proffer the charges and prosecute, the Courts that conduct trial and the Prison that keeps the inmates. Healthy additions are the Justice Sector NGOs.

A viable solution would mean, these sectors coming together to discuss the situation and find a holistic approach.
This Lawyers Alert did for Benue State with the kind Assistance of the Norwegian Human Rights Fund.

The stakeholders came together to discuss prisoners rights and how it is violated at every point. (We had posted a detailed report, see the archives).

The Criminal Justice Sector Agencies in Benue thereafter began a process of networking and working harmoniously to ensure prisoners were not unduly kept in detention in prison while awaiting trial.

In less than three months they had achieved the success we registered in over a year of giving just Legal Assistance.

The agencies discussed together in Bimonthly meetings and assistance rendered where necessary. For example when the Solicitor General complained of lack of power (electricity) so as to generate prompt Legal Advice, Lawyers Alert donated a Generator to alleviate the problem. This was made possible by networking and sharing of challenges.

When the Prisons complained of lack of vehicles in conveying prisoners to Court, Lawyers Alert under the Access to Justice Programme of the British Council (we were the focal organization in Benue) facilitated the delivery of Buses to the Makurdi Federal Prisons.

It is worthy to note that years after the inception of these inter- sectoral meetings, the Chief Judge of the State, impressed by it, created a formal institution named State Justice Reform Committee that now includes all stakeholders.

Today Makurdi Federal Prison is the only Prison in Nigeria with the least percentage of awaiting trial prisoners in proportion percentage with convicts.

We believe this model can be replicated in other jurisdictions.

Unfortunately, most States Justice Sector, including the Federal Ministry of Justice is so taken in by the lone, though commendable effort of legal assistance. This will not solve the situation unfortunately.

Prisoners rights are human rights after all

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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