A Non-Governmental Organisation, Foundation for Peace Professionals, also known as PeacePro, championing advocacy for release of unsentenced prisoners in Nigeria has urged the Federal Government to consider the release of 70 per cent of the Nigerian Prison inmates instead of the 30 per cent being proposed.
The NGO, while commending the move by the Federal Government to free 30 per cent of Nigerian prisoners to ease the huge population of inmates in the country’s Correctional Service Centre said that about 70 per cent of the population are awaiting trial inmates.
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said he would liaise with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum for the release of 30 per cent of prison inmates to ease the problem of congestion in the prison, saying that 70 per cent of the 75,635 inmates in the prison are awaiting trial inmates.
Aregbesola said the interface was necessary as more than 90 per cent of the inmates were being held for contravening state laws.
The Minister also said over 70 per cent of the 75,635 inmates at present were awaiting trial.
“Federal offenders in the system were far less than 10 per cent and the bulk of people in custody were those who have run foul of state laws, adding that the decongestion of the 253 custodial centres nationwide was necessary as some of the inmates have no reason to remain in custody.
“I have written to the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to allow me to come and address them on how they can support the process of decongestion, because the governors must buy into this system for us to do a massive decongestion, especially of Awaiting Trial Inmates.
“If we get the buy-in of state judicial authorities and the governments of the states, we can pull out 30 per cent of those who are there.” he said.
PeacePro, however, advised the Federal Ministry of Interior to increase the percentage of consideration from 30 per cent to 70 per cent in order to ensure a total overall of the correctional facilities, owing to the fact that more than 70 per cent of inmates in the country are non-convicted prisoners.
In a statement released on Monday and made available to PUNCH correspondent in Ilorin, the Executive Director of PeacePro, Abdulrazaq Hamzat, maintained that setting free suspects who have been held in detention without trial for a long period was far more honourable than keeping people perpetually in prison over petty offences, insisting that such perpetual incarceration of unsentenced prisoners was considered “destructive incarceration” rather than “correctional incarceration.”
Hamzat had previously explained that the advocacy to end “destructive incarceration” in Nigeria is part of PeacePro’s recommendation to the Federal Government in the Nigeria Peace Index report, a national replica of the renown Global Peace Index.
According to him, data from the National Bureau of Statistics had shown that over 72 per cent of people in prison cells or correctional facilities across Nigeria are unsentenced prisoners, some of whom have spent over 10 years in prison for a crime that, if convicted, they would probably spend less years in jail.
Hamzat noted that since the Federal Government also agree that more than 72 per cent of prisoners are awaiting trial for periods longer than necessary, it is only proper to increase the percentage of prisoners in consideration for freedom from 30 per cent to 70 per cent.
This, Hamzat said, would help the country totally decongest the prisons, while freeing itself from the burden of holding citizens in detention without due course of justice.
He also urged state governors to support the Federal Government’s efforts to correct the wrongs in the correctional service.