34,000 out of 42,000 prisoners are awaiting trial in Nigerian prisons – Interior Minister
Comrade Abba Morro had lamented over the terrible state of Nigerian prison, particularly in relation to congestion. The interior Minister had revealed that the major challenge confronting its ministry as it stands now was the issue of congestion. According to him, most of these inmates have been incarcerated for at least five years.
The minister in a recent interview with the “Daily Sun” lamented that, ” congestion still remains a big headache. There are 42,000 inmates in Nigerian prisons, and 34,000 of them are awaiting trial inmates (ATI). To solve this problem would mean a total overhaul and re-planning of the criminal justice administration system. I must state that the job of decongesting the prisons vested in the Justice Ministry has not been really effective.” He added.
Morro called for the need to re-jig criminal justice system in the country.
He said: “There should be a redesigning to involve the prisons and the supervising ministry and the police and civil society organisations.
All over the nation, I can say that every day, an average of 1000 more Nigerians are dumped in various prisons and remain there without trial. There are those that have been there for about three years or more without being taken to court for once.
He added that “it is not the way to manage a society. Some of them have been in detention for much longer than the sentence they would have got on conviction, and I can tell you that the law enforcement system has not helped matters.”
On his focus in the ministry, Idoma-born politician said, “It has not been easy managing the ministry, I must tell you. You know a federal ministry has high obligation and it takes a lot of skill to handle. In a situation where one manages not just the ministry but also agencies under it, one faces a different task altogether.
“In my ministry for instance, you coordinate the Prisons, Immigration, the Civil Defence and some others and it is not always easy.
But with my background in public service as a lecturer and administrator for years, and holding political office, there is some advantage because one already had ideas of what one wants and how to make the sector better and functional.
“We have been working in line with the president’s transformation agenda to ensure that the ministry is repositioned. We started with the update and enhancement of the human resource base. There is an acceptable standard to which workers must adapt; so we have embarked on training and improvement of workers because they have to be equipped to give their best. Public service has changed over the years and we can’t be left behind as part of a world that targets progress.
“In Immigration, we saw it compelling and vital to introduce the e-passport that is the trend all over the world. The introduction made it easier to obtain passports without the stress people went through in the past.
“Another area of utmost concern has been the prison. Our prisons are not worth the name. Everybody talks of the need to decongest the prisons but not much had been achieved. So we made it a duty to embark on real decongestion and also the improvement of the facilities.
“Prisoners now learn trades and skills so that when they leave the prisons, they will be fully and gainfully reintegrated into the society as better citizens. I have a wear I bought at the Onitsha Prisons that was sewn by a prisoner. It is so well designed that anybody will happily buy it. That is the type of society we want to achieve; where even ex-convicts and prisoners would be contributors to the economy and empowered.”
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