A retired Deputy Controller General of Prisons, Dr. Hassan Labo, has decried how Nigerian prisons have relegated its reformatory role to becoming a centre for keeping a large number of convicts who await trials for years.
Mr Labo, who stated this during a public presentation of a book he authored, ‘Prison Sector Reforms in Nigeria: Challenges and the Way Forward’, in Abuja recently, lamented that about 33% of the prisoners awaiting trial are there because of holding charges.
According to him, the slow pace of justice dispensation must be addressed.
He said: “First of all, the issue of awaiting trial must be looked at. Records have shown that nearly 29 prisons are keeping over 50% of this awaiting trial population. So it’s actually a case of worry for us.
“Prisons are set up mainly for the reform of the convicts, but when you have over 80% – 90% of such people in the prisons, the prison cannot even do its job. So that pushes the criminals to go back into crimes.
“The reformatory company is not there, because the law itself doesn’t allow prison officers to train awaiting trial inmates.
“They just remain there, waiting until their case is finished and when you have such situations what do you expect? So at the end of the day, we are padded by this problem of awaiting trial,” he added.
The author, while speaking on his inspiration for the book, said the inhuman condition the government subject its prisoners is so appalling that calls for total overhaul of the system.
“The situation is so appalling and the prisoners are fellow human beings like us. If you stay in your house for two good days without communicating with anybody, you will feel the difference.
“Imagine a prisoner awaiting trial for years. Anyone with a heart will be moved by it. So I said time is out for people who really feel bad about this situation to do something.
“So we are ready to propose what to do by virtue of having been in the system for good 23 years,” he explained.