15 infants among Umuahia inmates, says NGO
WORRIED that 15 babies were delivered in-house and are presently among the prison-inmates with their mothers in the Federal Prisons, Umuahia, Abia State, the Coordinator of Child’ Rights Advancement & Protection Initiatives ( CRAPI ) an NGO, Barrister Ozioma Patsy Onyenweaku, has called for strict implementation and enforcement of the nation’s laws particularly the Child’s Rights Law.
She also called on the state Chief Judge to ensure the creation and maintenance of effective and efficient family courts to handle cases involving children in line with the Child Rights Law of Abia State and that the state Ministry of Women Affairs should “clear the babies from the prison.”
The NGO Coordinator who addressed a press conference at the NUJ Press Center Umuahia on Tuesday asserted that “permitting the birth and nursing of babies in prison is equally a violation of the child’s right to dignity, liberty, family and private right to life, right to survival and proper development” stressing that “ a threat to survival is a threat to life.”
According to her: “Today, without the capacity to committing any crime and without charge, babies are becoming the greatest number of ‘inmates’ of the female prisons.”
“This is because pregnant women and nursing mothers are becoming the fastest-growing segment of the female prisons. Most of the pregnant women get into the prison with early pregnancies, as early as one month.”
“They are allowed to carry their full pregnancy term in prison, give birth in prison and nurse their babies in prison, while some of these women have their babies as young as two weeks old clinched to their chests when they are arrested and incarcerated. Punishing babies for an offence they did not commit and are not capable of committing is cradle injustice.”
Continuing she said: “ As I stand before you now, I tell you authoritatively that there are 15 babies ( and one on the way ) in prison here in Umuahia. They were all born there. The youngest is 10 days old and the oldest is two years and three months. The 15 babies are being nursed there with no provisions made for their feeding and their welfare because it is not contemplated or envisioned that babies could be born and nursed in prison.”
“These babies and their mothers are left at the mercy of the irregular visitors with donations to the prisons. No facilities, no toys and no playground for the babies. The babies are left to contend with the dull and tight faces of their mothers who are depressed over their lot in life.”
Pointing out that a mother’s imprisonment affects the baby before, during and after birth, Barrister Onyenweaku argued that the unborn child’s life-wire is the mother, whatever affects a pregnant women affects her unborn child adding “ the deplorable condition of the prison puts the pregnant woman under distress and since the cake must have the shape of or make on the pan, a distressed mother-to-be impacts negatively on the unborn baby and threatens the survival, physical and emotional development of the child”.