FG decries deplorable prison conditions, sets up decongestion committee

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN)

The Federal Government on Tuesday decried the deplorable conditions of prisons in the country and said it will do everything possible to make Nigeria prisons reformatory.

Government said the current conditions of the prisons, most of which were built during colonial era was not only unfortunate but very alarming and in dire need of national attention.
The Attorney-General of the Federation ( AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN)  stated this in Abuja while inauguratiing the Stakeholders Committee billed to oversee the Implementation of the Federal Executive Council’s directives to fast track de-congestion of Prisons in the country.
According to him. “The current state of our prisons is unfortunately very alarming. There is no gainsaying that the facilities are fastly over crowded with inmates and the environment mostly not conducive and thereby defeating the primary purpose of the prisons as primarily reformation centers.
“As a matter of fact, the state of our prisons directly touches on the fundamental human rights of the inmates and constitutes a violation of their rights”, he said.
The AGF recalled that the Federal Ministry of Justice had previously put a policy in place to reduce the number of inmates in the prisons by looking into the cases of Nigerians awaiting trial and individuals convicted on minor offences for which fines were the penalty.
Malami lamented that the issue of individuals awaiting trial is particularly worrisme because those on awaiting trial list constitutes 70 percent of the inmates in Nigerian prisons as at today.
“This is rather embarrassing and an indictment of the national justice system.
“This situation contradicts international standards including those provided in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that provides for the limited use of pre-trial detention only when certain conditions are present.
“Secondly, pre-trial detention is the period most open to abuse in the criminal justice process and in order for a prison system to be managed in a fair and human manner, national legislation, policies and practices must be guided by the International Standard developed to protect the human rights of prisoners”.
The AGF said his office was more concerned on the plight of the prisons and the inmates hence, he intends to come up with a road map and comprehensive action plan that will ensure that permanent gains are achieved in the work on reformation and decongestion of correctional institutions.
Already, Malami disclosed that he had kick-started part of the road map with the establishment of a case management system that will incorporate an up-to-date integrated biometric information technology to eliminate bottlenecks on issues of prisons.
Besides, the Chief Law Officer said he will work with Attorneys-General in all the states to develop requisite prison decongestion policy and to, if possible, enact a law on decongestion of prisons.
He charged the prison decongestion committee to review the draft road map prepared by his ministry and come up with a plausible road map that will guide prison reforms for the country.
The 23 member committee is headed by the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Ishaq Usman Bello.
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