Worried about the state of Nigerian Prisons, cases of over congestion’s, as well as the number of people awaiting trials, the senate has mandated the Chief Justice of the Federation and the Comptroller General of Prisons to immediately conduct an exercise into the records of inmates in all Nigerian Prisons to ascertain, identify and review the cases of inmates under the awaiting trails list who have been dumped in the prison custody without due and diligent prosecution of their cases beyond the period provided for in the constitution for the purpose of granting them freedom.
The directive is contained in Tuesday’s resolution of the senate following a motion moved by Senator Samuel Anyanwu (Imo East) on the ‘urgent need to decongest the Nigerian Prisons.
The upper legislative chamber also urged the Attorney General of the Federation and Chief Justices of the States to exercise their constitutional rights by setting free inmates whose trails have lingered or discontinued for lack of evidence, just as it urged the President and the State Governors to exercise their prerogative of mercy by decongesting the prisons the prisons of inmates whose detention are manifestly unlawful and those who have been in detention for periods longer than they would have served if convicted for the alleged offences they are charged for in order to save the prisons from becoming breeding grounds for epidemic.
During the lead debate, Senator Anyanwu who noted with concern the problem of congestion in the Nigerian Prisons that have continued to confront the nation’s criminal justice system, stressed that the problem of prison congestion in Nigeria has become a major challenge that constitutes an environmental hazard to the lives of inmates. He said that the prison inmates comprise of those whose trial proceedings have been determined and consequently sentenced to imprisonment, and inmates on awaiting trial list.
The Senator observed also that the overpopulation in the Nigerian prison is caused by a steady rise in the figure of persons awaiting trials which constitute over 70 percent of the total inmates recorded in the prisons across the country.
“The senate is aware that remanding someone in prison custody ion awaiting trial beyond the time he or she would have ordinarily spent if sentenced for the offence he or she is charged is an infringement of the fundamental rights of the individual guaranteed under section 35 of the 1999 constitution (as amended). The senate is aware further that the provisions of section 35 of the Nigerian 1999 constitution (as amended) demands that an accused must be brought before a competent court within a reasonable time or be released from custody two to three months from the date of arrest;”