SENATE yesterday urged the Federal Government to decongest prisons in the country by building new ones and renovate the existing ones.
Adopting the motion sponsored by Senator Samuel Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East) titled “Urgent Need To Decongest the Nigerian Prisons”, the Senate urged the Chief Justice of the Federation, State Chief Justices and the Comptroller of Prison to immediately conduct an exercise into the records of inmates in the Nigerian Prisons to ascertain, identify and review the cases of inmates under the awaiting trial 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 Upper Chamber also urged the Attorney General of the Federation and Chief Judges of the States to exercise their constitutional right by setting free inmates whose trials have lingered or discontinued for lack of evidence or follow up by the prosecutor. It urged the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation and the state governors to exercise their prerogative of mercy by decongesting 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 other to save our prisons from becoming a breeding grounds for epidemic. The Senate also directed its Committees on Interior and Judiciary to visit Kuje and Suleja prisons to ascertain fees payable by inmates, while urging the Federal Government to build more prisons and modernise the old ones. Anyanwu noted that the overpopulation in the Nigerian prisons was 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. He stressed that remanding someone in prison custody on 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 Nigerian 1999 Constitution (as amended). “The congestion in the Nigerian prisons caused by the rising number of detainees on awaiting trial portends a great danger to the life of inmates as much as it negates the fundamental rights of citizens guaranteed in the constitution. “The prison environment and treatment of inmates should reflect human values and sensitivity to life and justice,” he said In his contribution, Senator Shehu Sanni (APC, Kaduna Central) said there was the need for judicial reforms that would impact on the prisons in the country.