FG: Port Harcourt Prison turns inmates to animals
There are indications that the number of prison inmates awaiting execution across the country has hit 2,277, according to findings by New Telegraph. It was also gathered that the number of awaiting trial inmates now stood at 48,702, with the total population of inmates rising to 71,443. It will be recalled that as at December 2016, the condemned inmates’ population stood at 1,440.
The implication is that, between December 2016 and now, an additional 837 suspected criminals had been sentenced to death. A senior security source, who spoke in confidence with New Telegraph on the development, expressed worry on the increase.
According to the source, the rise in the number of inmates on death row was a potential threat to prisons security in particular and national security in general. He explained that considering their fate, the condemned inmates have the potential of instigating security breaches of whatever form, knowing that no punishment could be worse than what stares them in the face. “After inquiry, I can tell you that the current population of inmates on death row is 2,277.
“There is an increase of over 800 between December 2016 and now, and this calls for worry. “I say this because intelligence had revealed in the past, that they (condemned inmates) may have masterminded some past jailbreaks and other breaches,” the source said. Asked to disclose the total inmate population, he said: “The total population of inmates in prisons across the country is 71, 443, out of which 48,702 are awaiting trial.”
In Ogun State, no fewer than 254 inmates are on death row. As at last year, 90 inmates in Kaduna Prisons had been condemned to death for offences ranging from murder, armed robbery to rape. In Lagos, 202 inmates are on death row while there are 179 condemned inmates in Enugu Prison.
On the way out, the source maintained that: “First, let governors be courageous enough to endorse death warrants for eventual execution of those whose appeals have ran out. “In the alternative, the National Assembly could initiate amendment to the constitution, to possibly remove capital punishment therefrom.”
The Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Prisons Service, Mr. Francis Enobore, a Deputy Comptroller of Prisons, confirmed the report in a text message.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has raised the alarm over the sorry state of Port Harcourt Prison, lamenting that the facility turns inmates into animals. To buttress its point, it said the formation, which was conceived to hold 800 inmates, now accommodates 5,000.
Prisoners-turned “animals” sleeping in the Port Harcourt jail
Minister of Interior, Lt.- Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd.), who made the startling revelations yesterday in Abuja, further lamented that the state of Port Harcourt Prison is a microcosm of the general neglect of the sector. Dambazau represented Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at a public presentation of three volumes of Prison Survey Report (PSR) compiled by the Nigeria Prison Service (NPS) and the Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA).
“I was in Port Harcourt and I used my stay there to visit Port Harcourt Prison built in 1918 by our colonial masters. What I saw was gory because the prison has no rooms, but just serving as warehouse for the over 5,000 inmates accommodated in it instead of 800 inmates designed as capacity for the prison.
“From my findings, they say no room for prisoners and any human being that goes there would come back as an animal. My finding also reveals that prisons have been neglected over the years by the successive administration at the expense of the inmates.
“It is, however, a thing of joy that President Muhammadu Buhari has shown keen interest in prison reforms and had carried out tremendous progress on prison rehabilitation, even though funds are not there,” Dambazau said.
Notwithstanding the grim reality, the minister disclosed that provisions had been made for the construction of 3,000-capacity prison facilities across geopolitical zones. He added that additional vehicles had also been provided to convey inmates to courts for trials.
Earlier, the Comptroller General of Prisons, Mr. Ahmed Ja’afaru, bemoaned the near absence of data on inmates, saying the development contributed to congestion in the sector. Already, the House of Representatives, on Wednesday, mandated its Committees on Interior, Human Rights, Federal Judiciary, FCT, Judiciary and Police Affairs to conduct an investigative hearing on prison reforms.
The house charged the committees to identify specific challenges, in terms of infrastructure, administration of criminal justice system and other factors that could facilitate the decongestion and reform of the prison system.
The Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, mandated the committees to report back in six weeks. This was sequel to a unanimous adoption of a motion by Rep. Olufemi Fakeye (Osun -PDP) at plenary on Wednesday. In the motion, Fakeye said that the level of congestion in prisons across the country had become so alarming that they no longer served as correctional facilities or reformation center for inmates.
He said that information from the Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), as well as the Nigerian Prison Service (NPS) showed that only 21,354 inmates, comprising 21,009 males and 345 females, were convicts.
The lawmaker said that the remaining 46,756 inmates, comprising 45,765 males and 991 females, were still awaiting trial. He said that due to high congestion in virtually all the prisons, the inmates were exposed to risks of epidemics, jail breaks, lack of reform, transmission of bad habits and crime techniques by hardened criminals. He said that anti-social behaviors and moral decadence, ranging from homosexuality to other forms of human abuses had also become common features of the prisons.
According to the lawmaker, congestion in the prisons has become so acute that many cells meant to accommodate about 50 inmates now accommodate up to 150 inmates. “For example, the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison in Lagos, built to accommodate 956 inmates, is now occupied by over 2,600 inmates,” the lawmaker said.