Rights body seeks 72 days pre-trial limit to decongest prisons
A human rights advocacy group, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Erants (CURE-Nigeria) has canvassed a 72-day detention limit for awaiting trial suspects.
The group’s Country Executive Director, Mr. Sylvester T. Uhaa, made the call in Abuja while condemning the dehumanising condition of prisoners
He said a review was necessary to decongest the prisons, saying there is a high level of human rights violation against prison inmates across the country.
The group called for the full implementation of Section 293 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJ, 2015, which provides for the limit.
It also cited Section 35 (4, 5) of the Constitution, which prescribes the elimination of prolonged pre-trial detention.
Uhaa explained that his recent visit to some prisons showed that they have remained places of punishment and retribution, with little or no emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration.
He added that the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS) blamed the large number of awaiting trial suspects for the condition.
He called for a radical constitutional reform that would empower prison authorities to reject inmates when the prisons are filled above their required capacities.
“Since the NPS has blamed the situation on the huge number of pre-trial inmates in the prisons, we are opposed to the construction of 3000 capacity prisons in each geopolitical zone without a holistic approach to justice reforms,” he said.
He canvassed justice reforms that would enable inmates to access bail, while they are still presumed to be innocent.
According to him, rather than building additional prisons, the huge amount of money spent on feeding them could be deployed other areas.
“While we are aware of the urgent need for modern prisons to meet humane and international standards, we are concerned that building them without decongestion and other reforms would yield no good result.
“The current criminal justice and prison regime is quite worrisome. It is embarrassing to witness the utter boredom of hundreds of men and women who have little or nothing to do with prisons occupying them.
“Only a small percentage attends the few workshops or education programmes that available in some prisons, while the vast majority sit in the cells doing nothing,” he said.
Uyaa stressed that most of the prisoners are able- bodied, intelligent and capable people who walk aimlessly around prison yards, adding that many of them are also innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted.
“We want to remind the states that while the NPS is the exclusive responsibility of the Federal Government, the greater proportion of inmates are either residents or indigenes of those states.
He urged state governors not to fold their arms, as the Federal Government takes steps to reform the justice system.
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