ABOUT 52,436 inmates are currently awaiting trial, and this has contributed to overpopulation in many correctional centres across the country, according to the Federal Government.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, Shuaib Belgore, said this on Thursday, May 11, at the High Conference on Decongestion and Corrections Management in Abuja.
Belgore said there is a steady rise in the custodial centres’ population, noting that at least 80 per cent of the inmates are awaiting trial.
According to him, Nigeria’s 244 custodial centres nationwide are accommodating 75,507 inmates. He added that more than 82 correctional centres are overcrowded.
Belgore noted that there are 23,071 convicted persons in the prisons and about 3,322 of this number are condemned inmates on death row.
“The total number of male inmates is 73,821, and 1,686 are female. Of the 75,507 inmates, 52,436 are awaiting trial, while 23,071 are convicted persons, with 3,322 as condemned inmates on death row.”
He also pointed out that the congestion of custodial centres has led to a huge revenue drain.
Other challenges confronting the custodial centres include dilapidation of facilities, criminalisation of the society and the inability to separate awaiting trial inmates from convicted persons, he said.
Belgore also called for modernisation of custodial centres for appropriate reform and a “quick dispensation of justice”.
He asked for the construction of new facilities and a redesign of the bail system.
“I believe that the discourse at this conference should allocate more time to address the speedy dispensation of justice to reduce the number of inmates awaiting trial.
“In as much as the Ministry of Interior works tirelessly to accomplish the goal of achieving the greater reduction of the number of inmates across our custodial centres, we are determined to ensure that the correctional facilities provide not just a decent accommodation,” he said.
Why there is a high number of inmates awaiting trial
Despite the passage of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, which, among other purposes, aims at speedy trial and decongesting Nigerian prisons, there are over 50,000 prisoners awaiting trial in different jails across Nigeria.
Correctional facilities hold 37 per cent more inmates than it is designed to, as per data from Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS).
The data showed that facilities in all the geopolitical zones are either overcrowded or almost at full capacity, except for three states in the North-East.
According to oversight and negligence on the part of the authorities have led to an increasing population of awaiting trial suspects in custody of the country’s correctional service.
The findings showed that police and other prosecuting agencies, including the State Security Services (SSS), have contributed to the increase in awaiting trial suspects.
The report showed that the police often filed the wrong cases at the wrong courts. And in other cases, the courts failed to make preliminary findings on cases before ordering the remand of the suspects.
Last year, some CSOs appealed to the Federal Government to decongest correctional centres due to inadequate resources and facilities to accommodate many inmates.
The groups urged the government to create a workable plan for the inmates’ proper reintegration to avoid them returning to their old ways.