Are Nigerian prisons correctional homes?
Recently, the Federal Government renamed the Nigeria prisons as correctional facilities. Some legal practitioners expressed divergent views on whether the prisons have the wherewithal to be called correctional facilities?
Mr. Jide Agboola
Correctional facility is an institution or a place of correction where people that have been condemned are reformed, corrected and changed for better.
Prison is like an old name which needed to be changed or transformed, based on the modern day system.
It is also a place where the prisoners are advised and oriented in order to be useful for themselves and the society at large when they get their freedom.
It is unfortunate that everything in this country is poor and corrupt. Our government did not perform to expectations.
The prison was very horrible and pathetic, because some of the awaiting trials were almost 50 in a room, while some have been kept for six to seven years of which their cases was not up to the hardened criminals, but they were kept together in the same room, which is very bad.
The major challenges the prisons faced was lack of quality facilities. Most of the prisoners did not have access to the facilities. There was no proper medical attention, and no enough room.
The buses used to convey prisoners to the court are bad and there was no enough space. This is not so in advanced countries..
We used to call something academic exercise. The issue of changing of Nigeria prison to correctional facility, should not be an ordinary name, but they should try to put it into practice. They should act according to the name.
The name must make a positive impact in the life of the prisoners. They should enjoy the place, because they are coming back to the society for a better living and not becoming hardened criminals.
My advise to the government is to make sure they upgrade the facilities in the institution and make the place a correctional centre, whereby the criminals will come to change and be reformed.
They should also upgrade the transportation means of the prisoners when bringing them to the courts.
I could remember a day that my client was unable to get to the court because of transport and the case was adjourned till another date.
Government knows what to be done and they should do it.
Mr. Aliyu Yunusa
The idea is a very good one. But the present prisons are not in good state that could be called correctional facility, as there are no personnel, equipment and necessary facilities.
The population of our prisons is too high. Some prisons are not expected to accommodate more than 2,000 inmates, but the inmates there now are over 5,000.
Governments are not building additional facilities and the existing ones are not in a proper condition.
Our judicial system also share part of the blame as regards over population in the prisons. Our law needs to be reviewed, as many cases that are suppose to be tried at the Magistrates’ Courts (lower courts), are not, with the excuse that the courts lack jurisdiction to try them.
In Nigeria, there is a law that regulates Magisterial jurisdiction down to certain jurisdiction.
Magistrate Court has jurisdiction to try certain offences and equally has jurisdiction not to try certain offences.
But as it is today, the jurisdiction of the magistrate is being delimited They have reduced the jurisdiction of the magistrate.
When a person is brought to the court for committing a capital offence, the Magistrate lacks jurisdiction to try the matter. And the law is that when the magistrate lacks jurisdiction to try a particular offence, the proper thing is that police should come up with remand warrant.
If there is a probable cause, as the law says, the person will be remanded in the custody pending the issuance of legal advice by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and by provisions of the administration of Criminal Justice Laws of Ondo State, 2015, the DPP has a period of 21 days to issue the legal advice.
And after the issuance of legal advice, the next thing is for the information to be filed at the High Court and the defendant would be arraigned before the High Court properly as the legal adviser may advice or as the information may says. But now, we hardly get the legal advice within the 21 days stipulated by law.
We have the privilege visiting other countries or from reading, seeing how prison facilities of some other countries look like and we know how prisons should look like.
Nigeria has the power to do it, but we do not have the willingness to direct the idea to the prison. We have all what it takes, but we are, however, not doing it as it ought to be. Nigeria has all the facilities it takes to run a correctional centre. Infact, we have the ability and capability.
We have had a situation where a defendant was remanded in prison custody for over a period of one year, with no legal advice because there is no information.
Let me cite a case to be precise, I handled the matter personally and that Is the case of Commissioner of Police versus Seun Halbert and others.
To my understanding,, Seun Halbert and others were in prison custody for over a period of a year all in the name of awaiting legal advice. And uptill now, the four of them are still in prison without being tried, no information, nothing. With this, the prison continues congesting .
Not only that, there is another case of Commissioner of Police versus Abiodun Godydy Abe
This man was arrested in December 26, 2017, and taken to court in January 5, 2018. Uptll now, there’s no legal advice, and no information. Infact, the man is just lying there hopelessly. He doesn’t know his fate.
The government is trying, but needs to try more. Nigeria prisons must be decongested . The jurisdiction of the Magistrate Court must be reviewed. High Court is already saturated with a lot of cases. They should give more jurisdictions to the Magistrate Courts so that they can try more cases.
If the issue of correctional facility has to be effective, all these things have to be put in place. It goes beyond mere changing the name.
Even when someone is in prison, he or she still has some rights to certain things under the Fundamental Human Rights that are even constitutional. These rights should be giving to them.
The fact that someone is a prisoner shouldn’t make him/her hopeless. They can still contribute certain quotas to the society thereafter.
Mr Abraham Yakubu
Changing the name of the Nigeria prison to correctional facility will not do any magic to the system except there is a change in the operation of the facility.
We will just have another change of NEPA to PHCN and latter to BEDC and co, without any improvement in the power sector.
Prisons should be correctional facilities, a place where people with criminal tendencies can be reformed. But the current prison setting and facilities can never be a correctional facility even if the name is changed to Holy ghost centre.
First of all, qualified personnel that can actually offer correctional services should be employed. The facility should also be decongested for better management and control.
Prisoners should be engaged in activities that will be beneficial to their lives after their jail terms, and not just being locked up inside a room for years.
Name change won’t change the output. But a change in the running and the programmes of the prison will surely reform the prison inmates.
Mr. Peter Ujah
The word, “correctional” is gotten from the word “correction” which means and simply put, “to right a wrong.”
From my own point of view, Nigeria prisons are far from being called correctional centres.
I say so, because the facilities that would warrant our prisons to be called correctional are manifestly absent.
How can you correct an inmate without recourse to functional skill acquisition facilities?
As a lawyer, I speak from an informed perspective because I’ve had course to visit prisons. And I think we have what it takes to make it a correctional center if there is sincerity on the part of government at all levels.
It costs little or nothing to upgrade our prisons, appropriate funds for prisons
upgrade, set up a sort of, check mechanism to see how these appropriated funds are being spent and give the Minister of Interior definite mandate of making sure our prisons are upgraded and beefed up to pass for correctional facilities.
It is achievable, only if we are sincere to ourselves.
There is need to upgrade Nigeria prisons with modern day gadgets. This is not a rocket science.
What would it cost to employ the services of artisans and craftsmen to teach inmates basic skills like barbing, tailoring, carpentry, hairdressing, etc. Our leaders travel.
So, they should take a clue from what they see overseas. There’s nothing superfluous on this issue.
Mr. Morakinyo Peter Ogele
I think our prisons are just centres for hardened criminals. No matter how innocent you are, the moment you are there, you are in for another new life of criminal, because when you get there, there is nothing good to write home about. That is about the situation of the prison. So, calling that a correctional centre, is just a name.
Let me tell you, in a developed country , when you are being taken to a prison, you are going there for a new life.
For instance, looking at great men today in the world, like Akon, he served a jail term. But by the time he came out from the prison, you know whom he is now. So many of them.
But in this country, Nigeria, some inmates make plans, conspire and form groups, either for kidnapping or armed robbery after their jail terms and become harder.
I think calling our prisons correctional centres, is just a paperwork.
Actually, a prison is supposed to be a correctional centre, where you reform criminals to a new better lives, rather than the name. The facilities, amenities in there would make it correctional, not by name.
Well, not all the prisons are bad to that extent. I think in Enugu, they are trying now, like they are producing graduates now and so on like that.
But on this issue, we just have to settle down and see to what is necessary to put in place for better services, because the amenities are not there.
Going to Olokuta prisons, you would see over crowded people in a room. Even their feedings, all these are not correct.
Making Nigeria prison a correctional centre, there are somethings they need to put in place. There should be infrastructures to correct those who are there, so that once they come out, they become new persons.
There should be a good medical centres that will take care of the prisoners. Sometimes there, some people who are inflicted with infectious diseases, have to be taken care of, once such person is brought to the prison.
Building a good accommodation, because once you put 10 persons into a room that is meant to contain three persons, then you are not correcting anything, but subjecting them to hardship.
No portable water to drink, no electricity or good generator. All these amenities should be put in place. By the time a prisoner gains his or her freedom back, they become new persons. But when they live very hardship lives, they will come out to be more harder.
Before you can arrive at correctional centre, you must put all necessary facilities, amenities and infrastructures that will make it work in place.