The Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, on Thursday lamented the sorry state of the nation’s prisons, stating that the facilities have turned inmates to animals.
He explained that the rot in the Nigerian prisons was so terrible that anyone who spent time there would come out as an animal.
Osinbajo stated this in Abuja during the official presentation of the Nigerian Prisons Survey Reports, a research work undertaken by the Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action in conjunction with the Nigerian Prisons Service.
Osinbajo, who was represented by the Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd.), noted that it would take years of sustained and continued interventions to reverse the trend.
Narrating his experience during a visit to Port Harcourt prisons on Wednesday, the minister noted that the facility which was built in 1918 for 800 inmates, is currently housing 5,000 persons.
He said, “I visited the Port Harcourt prisons yesterday (Wednesday). While I was waiting for my flight, I chose to go to the prison. What I saw is a reflection of quite a lot of things in the survey.
“The Port Harcourt prison was built in 1918, meaning it will be 100 years old this year. For a very long time, our prisons had been neglected because that prison, when it was built in 1918 was meant to contain about 800 inmates but today, it is containing over 5, 000 and I find that very disturbing.”
He added, “There is no room for prisoners and anybody who goes into that place as a human being is coming out as an animal. If I have to say all that I saw at the Port Harcourt prisons, the media would feast on it. But, to say the least, it is very disturbing and we must do something about the prisons.”
While hailing PRAWA for the survey, which he said would avail government of reliable data on which to predicate its plans for prison reforms, Osinbajo called on states to domesticate the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
He restated government’s commitment to building a 3,000-capacity prisons in each of the six geopolitical zones of the country as part of measures to decongest the prisons, which he said, were filled with mostly awaiting trial inmates.
In his welcome address, the Controller-General of the Nigerian Prisons Service, Ahmed Ja’afaru, said the survey report “mirrors the justice delivery process from different stakeholders in the administration of criminal justice in Nigeria.”
Presenting a summary of the report, Executive Director of PRAWA, Dr. Uju Agomoh, said some of the problems confronting prison personnel included, staff overwork, delayed promotion, non-availability of work tools, obsolete equipment, poor remuneration, threats by inmates and corruption.