The Senate on Wednesday proposed the creation of house accommodation for the children of inmates in prisons across the country.
The accommodation would be aimed at taking care of the children born by mothers still serving jail terms.
The Bill was sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, who complained about the plight of infants in Nigerian prisons.
The bill was entitled, “A bill for an Act to repeal and Re-enact the Prison Act CAP P29 LFN 2004 Bill, 2016.”
According to Tinubu, the objective of the bill was to provide solution to some challenges in the prison sector by ensuring that prison authorities provided special accommodation to meet prenatal and postnatal needs of pregnant inmates.
Speaking on the bill, Tinubu said it was disheartening to see infants living with their mothers in the prisons, where movement was restricted, freedom restrained and liberty impeded.
The Senator said that the passage of the bill into law would provide solution by ensuring that prison authorities provided special accommodation to meet prenatal and postnatal needs of pregnant inmates.
Tinubu said, “The incidence of women going to serve jail term while they are pregnant or nursing infants is known to many nations of the world, but while some nations have found solutions to the problem by way of legislation, Nigeria has left these matters to chance and the magnanimity of individuals and charities.
“My colleagues in the seventh Assembly would recall that the plight of infants in prisons gave cause for concern, which prompted the members of the Women Affairs Committee of the Senate to embark on an oversight visit to Suleja prisons in 2013, where members expressed their concern and pledged assistance.
“This Bill attempts to provide solution by ensuring that Prison Authorities provide special accommodation to meet prenatal and postnatal needs of pregnant inmates, designate structures as nursery to be staffed by qualified persons, where the infants shall be placed when they are not in the care of their mothers, and also fight against stigmatisation of babies born in prison by providing that the circumstances of their birth shall not be included in their birth certificate.
“Statistics given by Prison authorities as at March 2013 showed that there were 69 infants living with their mothers in Nigerian Prisons across the Federation. Though the number may fluctuate, the fact remains there is need to make special provision for these categories of prisoners.
“While some of the solutions proffered such as providing separate accommodation for pregnant women, nursing mothers, breastfeeding sections and nursery/creche facilities in prisons may have cost implications, it is all achievable. l am calling for a replicate of the provisions made by the maximum prisons at Kirikiri Lagos to enable us meet with the minimum world best practices as stipulated in many international conventions and treaties.
“The 88 mixed gender prisons in the country have facilities that can be converted to accommodate the provisions of this Bill. The financial implications of the proposed conversion are attached. Keeping such a designated hall, room or cell clean and hygienic does not cost a fortune. while purchase of infant beddings, mosquito nets etc. are equally within reach with many donor agencies. NGOs and public spirited Nigerians donating to such institutions periodically.
“Another innovation which this bill proposes is the enlargement/expansion of the definition of ‘infant‘ as contained in the Act to cover children between ages 0 to 3 years and thus allow them stay with their mothers beyond 18 months which the extant Act currently allows. This is because Psychiatric research has shown that the first 3 years of a child’s life is important for mother-child bonding. The mother is the primary giver of love and care in a young child’s life and this can mitigate the effect of any emotional damage in life, promote sense of security and healthy self-esteem.
“l urge you, my Distinguished Colleagues, to see this Bill in light of catering for young Nigerians who are unable to dictate the circumstances of their birth and who, it well taken care of today may be great leaders of their own generation. By supporting this bill you will be lending your voice to the entrenchment of the rights of the Nigerian child. I urge you my Distinguished Colleagues to allow the smooth passage of this Bill”.
The Bill, which has some similarities with two other Bills, was asked to be merged and referred to the Senate committee on Judiciary and Interior for further legislative inputs.