On the heels of recent revelation by National Human Rights Commission on the plight of Awaiting Trial Women in prison across the nation, BIOLA AZEEZ and LEKAN OLABULO write that this may be few, and far between, but times external factors may be responsible.
RECENTLY, the National Human Rights Commission revealed that 90 per cent of women awaiting trial in prisons across the country are either nursing mothers or pregnant.
The Executive Secretary of the commission, Professor Bem Angwe, said the figure was arrived at after the commission’s recent prison audit across the country.
“In our prisons today, we have a lot of nursing mothers who are being locked up with their children and are nursing these children in the prison cells.
“We also have instances where such women who are still carrying babies in prison are also pregnant.
“It is also sad to note that more than 90 per cent of these nursing mothers are still awaiting trial. These are women that should have been released on bail while awaiting their trial. But they are kept there in prison with their children who are made to serve prison terms when their mothers are not yet convicted,’’ Angwe said.
Before leaving office, former Comptroller General of Prisons, Zakari Ibrahim, was said to have ordered a pregnancy test to be carried out on some female inmates of Owerri prisons following rumours of sexual relationship between female inmates and male prison officials, and the discovery by parents of a young lady awaiting trial that their daughter was pregnant.
Abusing warrant issues
A prison source in Lagos, who spoke with the Sunday Tribune under the condition of anonymity admitted that there are pregnant and nursing mothers in some of the prisons in the South-western part of Nigeria, but quickly pointed out that warders were not responsible for a “majority of the cases.”
The prison source said: “You know that I don’t usually hide my feelings on wrongdoings in the prison, but I must tell you the fact on this. Most of those pregnancies are from outside of the prison.
“ Let me tell you, a majority of such cases happened with the Awaiting Trial (inmates). Hardly will you find that with any convicted female prisoner. This is because the female prisoners have warderesses and hardly can you find any man around them, except in cases where they are being taken to court and in those cases, they go with warderesses,” the source added.
Speaking further, the source continued: “Some influential and powerful male prisoners can have women brought from outside for them to sleep with, but that is not the case with female convicted prisoners.
“The few cases (of pregnant inmates) were done from outside of the prison, whether from the police station or the inmate might have been pregnant before she was sentenced. There is always a close monitoring of the female inmates by the wardresses.
“There was a situation like that in Agodi Prisons, Ibadan, where a police inspector was using the reproduction warrant to sleep with a female awaiting trial inmate. He would get a reproduction warrant and take the inmate out of the prison. He promised the inmate that he would help her, but he did not. He was just using her by sleeping with her.
“However, one day, the inmate deliberately left her underwear under the policeman’s bed and that was how the whole secret was exposed. The policeman was sentenced to prison.”
On the health services available for nursing and pregnant mothers at the prisons, the source said further that “they have a sick bay and when the condition is serious, they take them to the hospital.
“The pregnant ones, who are due for delivery, are often taken to the General Hospital in most cases. The health care for them is not bad.”
Not like that here
At the Ilorin Prison Service a competent source told Sunday Tribune that it is a different ball game altogether there, because a pregnancy test is mandatorily conducted on every female inmate on arrival at any of the prison facilities in the state.
The source, who said that the test would ascertain if the female inmate was pregnant or not, added that it would also prepare the service for required health care services to be given to such inmates.
“We first compulsorily do pregnancy test for any female inmate here on arrival. That’s what we must first do. After, we will inform the relations of the inmate of her condition, particularly her husband in order to know how we can take care of the inmate,” the source said.
The source, who said it’s not easy having sexual relations with any of the female inmates in any of the prison yards in the state, added that there can’t be common agreement or united front among warders, talkless of wardresses to encourage any sexual relationship between a warder and a female inmate.
“The secret will eventually be revealed if such thing happens here. There’s no single wardress that will allow any warder to enter the female side. That can only happen in the event of serious problem or an issue that may warrant the invitation of a warder,” he said.
The source added that the state command has only five female inmates at present in its custody and they are at Oke Kura prison in Ilorin.
“That’s the only yard with facility to take care of female inmates among the prison yards in the state. There’s proper health care facility for them. However, if there’s a bigger health challenge or child delivery, they are taken to government hospitals outside the prisons,” the source said further.