The Nigerian Prison system is in
dire need of reformation as successive government has not given sufficient
attention to this unique environment that should be a centre of reformation but
it has become the centre for production of hardened criminals.
The Old Colonial Prison on Broad
Street in the heart of Lagos was one of the oldest prisons in the country, where
those who do any wrong against the reign of her majesty’s government in Nigeria
are kept. The prison was initially built from mud and grass thatch in 1882. It
was rebuilt using bricks imported from England in 1885 as anti-colonial
activists kept setting it on fire. Prominent Nigerians who wrestled for
Independence once suffered incarceration at this location that has been turned
an art centre that attracts people from all walks of life and it is now called Freedom Park.
The Nigerian Prison system has
respect for the sexes; male and female prisons are partly separated. Also, the
prisons are divided essentially into the Maximum and the Medium Prisons while
Detention Centres are managed by the Nigerian Police Force.
There are many disheartening
tales about the Nigerian prison system which is hinged on other factors beyond
the control of the Federal Government paramilitary organization, as no state
has a prison. As Nigerians are serving jail terms in other countries; so are
other nationals serving jail terms in Nigeria. These are predominantly Africans
and some Arabians. However, the State Government, Non-Governmental
Organizations and well-meaning Nigerians have supported the system over the
There is an unending complaint
about congestion in Nigerian prisons. Unfortunately, many of those who are in
the prisons are ‘awaiting trial’ and not yet convicted of a particular crime.
Many people have been wrongly accused of perpetrating a crime that they know
nothing about and they have not been tried for years. There are a few lucky
ones whose relations know they are there because many of them are assumed to be
dead. A cell that should accommodate 2 inmates now houses about 15 people.
However, the state of congestion
can be blamed on the Judicial System of the country. The dispensation of
justice is usually prolonged, as such; many people do not get discharged and
acquainted in good time despite being innocent. This needs to be addressed in
good time in order to reduce the level of congestion.
The aftermath of congestion
include jailbreak which has happened in some prisons in Nigeria most especially
between 2013 and 2014. States where the jailbreak happened are Ogun, Ondo,
Bauchi, Lagos, Kogi, Ekiti and Niger States. The Nigerian Prisons System is
operated as a community from the Comptroller- General to the wardens. However,
it is noteworthy that the number of staff needs to be buffered. The shortage of
staff is also included in the availability of healthcare facilities to the
Insurgency has also added more
people to the prison system in the country. There are many arrests that have
been made, nevertheless, there is no dedicated prison to all those arrested.
They are scattered all over the maximum prisons in Nigeria but not in the
The spate of corruption has
warranted that people should be incarcerated after mismanaging the national
treasury. Recently, the former minister of Interior, Abba Moro, was remanded in
prisons. However, there are also allegations of selective VIP (Very Important
People) treatment to former political office holders and their allies based on
‘Order From Above’ etc.
The Nigerian Prison System needs
to be revamped if it will not be a breeding space for hardened criminals who
will commit more heinous crimes after completing their terms in prison. Also, the
lives of the staff of the paramilitary organization should be protected as they
are faced with life-threatening situations frequently.