Prison reforms committee condemns violation of inmates’ rights

The Federal Government Committee on Prison Reforms has decried the violation of fundamental rights of prison inmates across the country.  

Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory High Court and Chairman of the committee, Justice Ishaq Bello, facilitated the release of 13 inmates during a tour of Imo State prisons yesterday, where Governor Rochas Okorocha paid their fines.  

The committee had earlier visited Rivers State where 26 inmates were also released.  

While Governor Nyesom Wike facilitated the release of inmates who were remanded in prison for their inability to settle their fine options, Justice Bello released those whose committed minor offenses but were either remanded without trial or sentenced beyond the provisions of the law.  

Among those freed was Joy Goodluck from Imo State. She was sentenced to three years in jail at the Port Harcourt Prison for stealing half bag of cassava.  

The lady, who was pregnant at the time of the offense, was released with her baby after she narrated the circumstance that brought her to prison.  

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Speaking further on the inmates dehumanising conditions, Justice Bello stated that the problem with Nigerian prison system was not only about the crowded space inmates were subjected to, but also the attendant psychological and emotional impacts.  

“We must look inwards to find the way forward,” he said, and urged the Chief Judge of both states to review inmates’ files with a view to identifying those who have served out their terms.   

Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who led the delegation, cautioned that since awaiting trial inmates constitute 70 per cent of the prison population in the country, there was the urgent need to address the issue of rights violation in the name of awaiting trial.  

“I am, therefore, pleased to announce that the committee will, in addition to ensuring the payment of fines, also review cases of inmates awaiting trial for more than five years in select priority prisons,” he said.  

Responding, Wike flayed the Police for the delay in charging arrested persons to court, alleging that the force was partly responsible for the increasing figure of inmates.   

Okorocha admitted that prison atmosphere in the country could not guarantee the transformation of inmates after their release, adding that the justice system was responsible for prisons congestion.  

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