Prison reform imperative, says Senate committee
Chairman of the Committee Sen. Andy Uba made this remark last Friday in Lagos during the committee’s retreat in furtherance of a bill to repeal and Review Amendment of the Prisons Act Cap. P29, Laws of the Federation 2004.
The Bill also seeks to enact the Nigerian Prisons and Correctional Service, to make provisions for the Administration of Prisons in Nigeria, the awaiting trial persons, and for related purposes.
The event held at the Sheraton Hotel in Lagos, was tagged “Retreat For The Review of Amendment to Nigeria Prison Act.”
Uba, said that the retreat will afford attendees the opportunity to share opinions and to collaborate in a bid to achieve better prison reforms, which will deliver on committee’s idea for incarcerated people.
His words: “There has been numerous attempts at restructuring the Nigerian Prisons Administration since the advent of our democracy in 1999, and legislative amendments have been made on existing prison laws; there is a broad consensus that Nigeria prison reform is an absolute must.
“On Thursday February 15, 2018, the committee conducted a hearing on four bills, aimed at reforming the Nigerian Prisons Service, where stakeholders, experts, and the general public, were invited.”
According to Uba, the Senate of the 8th Assembly, has therefore, in concert with Civil Societies led by the Prison Reform and Welfare Action (PRAWA), organised the retreat as part of its oversight into the laws, with a view to engage with stakeholders on proposed legislation.
In her remark, Executive Director of PRAWA, Dr Uju Agomoh, said the content of the bill been proposed for amendment, is such that will provide a face of humanity to the prisons.
She said: “In the words of Wilson Churchill, the way to access a country’s humanity is to see how it treats those who are placed in prison.
With the passage of this bill, a lot of provisions will be remedied and our thanks will be more resounding when the bill is passed.”
Sharing the highlights of the bill, Agomoh said one of the fundamental provisions of the bill, is to have a name change from the Nigeria Prisons Service, to the Nigeria Correctional Service.
Agomoh said that the bill also provides for a custodian and non-custodian sentences, which will be a new arm of the correctional centre.
On his part, Controller General (CG) of the Nigeria Prison Service, Mr. Ja’faru Ahmed, said that there was no denying the fact that the laws regulating penal institutions was old.
He stressed the need for necessary amendments, to bring the law in tune with the philosophy of punishment, and that of correction.
Speaking through his representative, Mr Mbe Shemfe, the CG said that the proposed amendment would give Nigerian Prisons a new face from the perceived notion of an intimidating institution.
In the same vain, Comptroller of Prisons, Lagos Command, CP Tunde Ladipo, noted that the Prison Act was last amended in 2004, which makes it 14 years since the last amendment.