The Federal Government of Nigeria has stated that it is prepared to collaborate with pertinent parties to decongest prisons in Nigeria.
The revelation was made by Interior Minister Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola on Wednesday in Abuja during a roundtable discussion with PRAWA (Prisoner Rehabilitation and Welfare Action) and representatives of donors taking part development agencies.
Aregbesola claimed that the country’s prisons are overcrowded with inmates who are awaiting trial, are on the death list, are unable to pay their debts or fines, and some who have committed just minor offenses.
Less than 20% of those incarcerated are first-time offenders, according to the ministry. Correctional Service has no authority over inmates, he said. They retain anybody the judiciary asks them to, adding: “Safeguarding the inmates is our responsibility, and we also advise the government,”
While thanking the stakeholders for their support, Aregbesola urged them to work with the federal government to decongest the custodial centers by providing not only financial help but also technical and intellectual assistance.
He revealed that the President has authorized a measure that puts the Correctional Service to the concurrent list, claiming that the majority of the prisoners who are now in detention are prisoners who committed state offenses, which the President has no power to release.
In his introductory remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Shuaib Belgore, in the person of Director Legal Services, praised the Minister for his commitment to and efforts in the country’s decongestion of detention facilities, which would be his legacy after his tenure.
The Controller General of Nigeria Correctional Service, Halliru Nababa, who was represented, reported that the number of inmates in custodial facilities all over the country is far above the number of facilities available. He disclosed that the custodial facilty in Port Harcourt which is supposed to accommodate 800 inmates presently has over 4000 inmates, stating that Correctional Service is ready and will appreciate any support to help decongest the custodial centers.
Present at the event are Directors from the Ministry, PRAWA, and representatives of donors participating agencies.