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Friday, April 13, 2018


Nigerian centre for prisons and reform and inmates rights emblem

Nigerian centre for prisons and reform and inmates rights emblem

Africa is overwhelmed with crime. A call for peace in South Africa prisons reveals the efforts of Reverend Dr. James V. Fatuse, a minister of the reformed churches in South Africa, currently busy conducting Restorative Justice for offenders at St. Albans Correctional Center in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. 

In several articles, we explained how inmates should be treated in order to improve humanity within prisons.

It looks the work of Rev. Fatuse is leading somewhere because the next wave is coming with the help of Nigerian Centre For Prisons Reform And Inmates Rights CENPRIR, who want to ensure rights of inmate and prisoners before and in prison, rehabilitation and reforms of prisoners and prisons, support prisoners family, re-integration of prisoners to the Society. 

And finally helping the out of school children both in prison and the ghetto. In our opinion, the sun is starting to shine for African prisons and of course when asked we are honoured to write about these developments.  

There have been lots of indications that African prisons have serious problems. Staff-prisoner relationships are at the heart of the prison system and a stable prison life depends on a large extent on getting these relationships right, particularly in long-term. But mostly there it goes terribly wrong because corruption prevails.

Controller General of Nigeria Prison Service Ja’afaru Ahmed

The Controller General of Nigeria Prison Service, Ja’afaru Ahmed has lamented the dwindling population of prisoners in Nigeria. He said that as at March last year, there are 68,250 inmates held in prison facilities all over the country. 

Out of this number, 46,351 are awaiting trial while the remaining 21,903 are convicted. In terms of percentage, the convicted is thirty-two percent while awaiting trial persons are sixty-eight percent. However, the figures are not static as they go up and down. 

At first sight, this figure might look large but, according to one expert, it is actually very small in relation to the Nigerian population.

This is the best proof yet of the dysfunctional, not to say broken down nature of the criminal justice system wherein the prosecutors and the courts are unable to speedily and efficiently bring cases to a conclusion. Instead, some people continue to stand trial for many years and the prison service is left holding the hat. It is time to do something very serious about this system.

Prison break in Nigeria attributed to corruption

In Nigeria, prison breaks are of the order of the day and mainly caused because of corruption, the inhuman situation and a failing justice system. Of course, a prison break is an unlawful act under Nigerian law, but who wouldn't try to escape when there is no future. 

Prison breaks can also be described as attacks on the Nigerian Prisons Services by terrorists such as Boko Haram and armed robbers but of course, this isn't a solution at all.

Often, when this occurs effort are made by the Nigerian Prisons Services in conjunction with security agency to rearrest the escapee and return them to the prison and this may result in the extension of their jail term. 

But the main question is how to deal with corruption, poor funding of the prison services, poor prison facilities, inadequate security features such as CCTV, motion sensors, a high wall made up of barbed wire and sometimes electric fencing of the wall. This isn't a prison but a concentration camp alike.

Mister President Buhari, here are some horrific figures!

In the last decade amongst others prison breaks in Ogun, Bauchi, Ondo, Lagos, Kogi, Ekiti and Minna prison has been noted and when the system doesn't improve President Buhari, there are more to come. It is up to you and your government to change the situation for the better.

The revolting pictures of Nigerian prison cells on the internet and in newspapers are enough to give anyone visiting a jailhouse in the country a panic attack.

But amidst these dingy, damp and dimly lit rooms in prisons, overcrowded with the damned, deceased and dying from all over the country, there are cells reserved for some affluent inmates who live out their terms in happiness and merriment.

Over the years, overcrowding in Nigerian prisons has been a recurrent topic of discussion due to a large number of awaiting trial inmates in the system. But in the face of this mister President, the Federal Government has continued to ignore the stakeholders’ advice on the needed expansion of the existing prisons.

In the Kirikiri Maximum Prison in Lagos for instance, it was learned that inmates who have the money, pay anything between N70,000 and N300,000 to live in the VIP section.

An ex-inmate who has now become a prison reform advocate, Mr. Gwamnishu Harrison, shares his own experience across three prisons in the country, confirming our findings. He says; “At the Maximum Prison, the VIP units are called ‘apartments’ rather than ‘cells’. 

Inmates live in self-contained rooms with personal access to shower, toilet, television and even generators. The amount you pay to live in the VIP section depends on how big your case is. If for instance, you were in prison because of a fraud involving a lot of money, they call you ‘big fish’ at the Kirikiri Maximum Prison. 

You would have to pay higher than others to get a special cell. The higher the amount of money involved in your case, the higher the money you pay to officials.

Once the court pronounces that you have been remanded, the prison warders sit you down to tell you the situation you would meet at the prison. 

They would threaten you subtly that you would be put in the general cells, where inmates could beat you regularly but that if you were in the VIP cells, nobody would be able to touch you.”

But mister president Buhari, inmates should be convicted of course but after that, all inmates are equal and should be handled humanely with no exceptions.

Corrupt privileged cells make money for officials

Prison reform advocate and Lagos lawyer, Chief Gabriel Giwa-Amu, says he came to learn about how corrupt officials create privileged sections in the prisons over the years through his work. But according to him, it is not in all cases that privileged inmates are separated from the general population due to corruption.

He says, “Some privileged inmates are separated because of their ailments. Some of them suffer from tuberculosis and other contagious diseases. But in many cases, corruption is in play. 

We have a place called Aso Rock at the Kirikiri Prisons, which was originally built by the British Council as a donation to the Nigeria Prison Service. The facility is so well-maintained with many amenities that officials now use it as an opportunity to make money.

Depending on how much you can afford, you are not kept among the general prisoners. This is a system that has been going on for a long time. There is also a corrupt system in the prison where those who are committed are given medical certificates and are not kept in the prison yard but in the military hospital.”

Giwa-Amu confirms to us that indeed a cell block which used to be a juvenile unit has been converted to housing affluent inmates at the Ikoyi Prison.

The ideal human prison for all

A correction officer has a responsibility to control inmates who may be dangerous, and that society themselves do not wish to accommodate. An officer must always prevent disturbances, assaults, and escapes by supervising activities and work assignments of inmates. 

An officer should never forget that inmates are human beings who have paid their price in prison not afterward.The objective of the present article is to reexamine with respect to the functionality of maintaining the gap between inmates and staff.

As we have discussed with Reverend Fatuse at St. Albans Correctional Center in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, intensive research has been conducted in several Centres i.e. Medium A, Medium B and Maximum and is based on observations, on examination of documents relating to prison regulations and on interviews with prisoners, ex-prisoners and as well as senior staff members.

The findings of the research point to a widespread cooperation between prisoners and staff, which serves the interests of both sides. If there is no good relationship between prison officers/correctional officer and inmates, life would be difficult and administration won’t be easy plus rehabilitation will fail.

Therefore, this matter has to be re-examined carefully and proper precautional measures are implemented to save everyone’s life within the establishment i.e. both inmates and Department of Correctional Services personnel. 

Note about terminology Prisons/Correctional Centres

Prison or Correctional Officers must maintain order and daily operations of the facility and are responsible for the care, custody, and control of inmates. 

A correction officer has a responsibility to control inmates who may be dangerous, and that society themselves do not wish to accommodate.

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