Monday, 6 March 2017

Insecurity: Group urges govs to prioritise prison decongestion

State governors in the country have been urged to prioritise the need to end congestion in the nation’s prisons in view of its negative implications on security, inmates’ rights and national image. This request is contained in a letter to the governors, written by a group, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE-Nigeria), and addressed to Chairmen of the Governors’ Forums of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – Rochas Okorpcha (Imo State) and Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti). CURE-Nigeria, in the letter signed by its Executive Director, Sylvester Uhaa, noted that almost all the prisons in big cities in the country are currently holding thrice their designated capacities, triggering frequent jail breaks. It added that out of the over 69,000 inmates across the country, more than 46 thousand are awaiting trial, making Nigeria the 5th country with the highest pre-trial detention population in Africa, trailing Libya, Benin Republic, DCR, and Central African Republic. CURE-Nigeria argued that the congestion in the nation’s prison did not only pose significant health, economic and social consequences for the inmates, their families and the states, it also constitutes a serious security threat to the host communities. The group, while contending that states could no longer afford to abandon issues relating to justice and prison reforms to the Federal Government alone, asked all the governors to urgently initiate justice and prison reforms programs and invest in prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration in their states. Part of the letter reads: “the continued detention of suspects without trial for many years, clearly represents the cruellest and most brutal means of human rights abuse and the abuse of power by those entrusted with power to protect human rights and dignity. “Prolonged pre-trial detention is a colossal waste of human potential that comes at a considerable cost to your respective states, taxpayers, families, and communities, as some of those who have been detained unjustly would have engaged in one form of economic activity or the other, contributing to economic growth of your states and that of the nation “Consequently, CURE-Nigeria asks your Excellencies to demand that all those who are charged with the responsibility of ensuring justice delivery in your respective states to do their job. “In particular, we request your Excellencies to ask the Attorney-General and Commissioners of Justice in your respective states to work with the House of Assembly to domesticate the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. “We also ask your Excellencies to liaise with the Chief Judge of your states to pay frequent visits to prisons to review cases of those awaiting trial and make recommendations for speedy trial of cases unduly delayed, and free those who are unjustly detained for periods exceeding the allowable time. “We also request Your Excellencies to provide logistics and other forms of support to the prisons in your states to enable them perform their constitutional obligations optimally,” it said. The group urged the governors to fund legal aid for the poor; support prisoner education and other rehabilitation and reintegration programs in the prisons, “as this will impact heavily on your efforts to fight crime, spur economic and social development and achieve peace.” CURE-Nigeria, in a separate letter dated February 28, 2017, urged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to urgently investigate the reported death in the custody of the Nigeria Police Force, two Nigerians – Ifedolapo Atansuyi and one Tope – arrested by policemen in Lagos. Media reports had it that while 20-year-old Ifedolapo, a gospel musician, died on February 25, 2017 at the Oko Awo Police Post, Tope, who was suffering from ulcer, died on February 27 at Lion Building (both in Lagos). Part of the letter reads: “It is our hope that the Commission, in its usual character, will take immediate steps to establish the authenticity or otherwise of this report and will conduct thorough and transparent investigations into the remote and immediate causes of the alleged deaths if the reports are true. “We equally hope the NHRC will hold anyone found responsible for the deaths to account, award commensurate compensations to the victims’ families and put in place mechanisms to prevent the reoccurrence of such ugly incidence. “Also, we want to use this medium to remind the Commission that Nigerians are still waiting for the outcome of its investigation into the alleged killing of six inmates in Abakiliki Prison last August.”

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