Why 1,680 condemned criminals have not been hanged – Prisons Service


In reaction to the recently announced jail-break at Kuje Prison, Abuja, Nigerians have called for a review of the criminal justice system to purge the prisons of innocent detainees.
According to statistics by the Nigeria Prisons Service, no fewer than 45,253 inmates currently held up in the 241 prisons spread across the country, are innocent.
The number, which is about 72 per cent of 63, 142, the total number of inmates being held across the prisons, represents people who have been arrested for various offences and have not been proven guilty in any way by any court of law.
The anomaly has led to avoidable overcrowding of facilities, which could pave the way for jail breaks and other criminal activities, experts have said.
The Spokesperson for the NPS, Francis Enobore, who confirmed the situation to our correspondent in a telephone conversation on Thursday, added that a total of 1,680 condemned criminals were also awaiting execution.
He attributed the delay in implementation to “shortage of hangmen and the reluctance on the part of state governors to sign the death warrants.”
Meanwhile, some of the inmates had been kept in detention by men of the Nigeria Police Force and other security operatives, and had been awaiting trial for periods ranging from a week to five years, in absolute contradiction of the Nigerian constitution.
At the Ikoyi and Kirikiri prisons alone, our correspondent gathered that over 4,000 people were being held by prison authorities for periods outlawed by the constitution and, in most cases, for offences that may never earn a conviction at the end of the day.
At the moment, Nigerian prisons are said to have a total capacity that can accomodate only 50,000 inmates.
But, according to prison records as of March 31, 2016, the prisons had a total number of 63, 142 inmates. This means that the facilities have been over-stretched by about 13,142 inmates. However, in what seems like a perpetration of rights violation and abuse of powers by the police and other arms of the nation’s security apparatus, only 17,879, representing 28 per cent of the total number of inmates, have been convicted of any offence.
Sources told The Point that, of the remaining chunk of inmates awaiting trial, a small percentage are persons whose cases have yet to be decided by the courts, while the remaining ones are persons who have not and may never be taken to court.qout“Aside from the 17,879 who have been convicted and are serving different jail terms or have been condemned to death, a large percentage of the remaining figure are persons being held over spurious allegations and charges. This is often responsible for the periodic jail breaks experienced across prisons in the country,” a source said.
The Nigerian Constitution and a number of international conventions frown at violations of human rights and abuses. Specifically, the Nigerian Constitution says that nobody could be detained for more than 24 hours in police custody without arraignment in a court of law.
But according to findings, the Nigeria Police, in particular, seems to have developed a penchant for illegal arrests and detention, which swells the prison population. This is besides various violations of human rights engendered by such arrests in outright disregard for the Constitution.
Our correspondent gathered that, in more than 100 police stations in Lagos State, for instance, and other police stations across the country, there were detainees who had spent a week or more in police cells for various offences. This is in spite of the fact that the conditions of most of the cells, are unfit for animal habitation.
The detentions, right activists said, were direct violations of the law, which presumed such persons innocent until their cases were proved otherwise.
Further findings revealed that, on the notice boards in police stations, were names of detainees/ suspects and the various offences allegedly committed. Information on each detainee is complete with date and time of arrest.
A random check of the names on the boards at police stations visited by our correspondent, however, showed that a minimum of four human rights violations were recorded daily in each station.
Insiders told The Point that the purpose of the names on the notice boards had long been defeated.
“The colonial masters introduced the notice board to know who and who were in the cell. But overtime, the purpose had been altered. Now, the purpose is to enable the Divisional Police Officer know and determine the amount to collect whenever the issue of bail arises. This is why Investigating Police Officers often keep names of cases to themselves without the knowledge of the DPO,” the source revealed.
federal-government-of-nigeriaChecks at the dreaded Force Criminal Investigations Department, Adeniji Adele Annex, Lagos, indicated that officers serving at the station were the worse violators of suspects’ rights, as a person could, on the average, be detained there without trial for more than six months.
While the disturbing trend has been a source of headache to human rights activists, who claim that members of the Nigeria Police are fast becoming laws on to themselves, the immediate past Force Public Relations Officer, Olabisi Kolawole, said the authorities had established Human Rights Desks at various police stations to stem such ugly incidences.
She wondered why officers and men of the force could flagrantly violate the rights of individuals.
Kolawole urged members of the public to report cases of abuse or rights violation by officers to their superior officers, who would take action on such cases.
The newly appointed acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, in his inauguration speech, had promised to effect changes in the attitude of the average police officer, insisting that an average officer must be regarded as a symbol of human rights in action.
Idris promised a radical change that would effectively put the police on their toes as an organisation saddled with the responsibility of maintaining law and order.
However, most police officers, who spoke with The Point on the condition of anonymity, put the blame of delayed trials of accused persons on the judiciary.
They alleged that the incidents being refered to as rights violations and abuse of powers were not perpetrated by the police but were the consequences of a criminal justice system that allowed the justice departments to act in flagrant abuse of the law.qoutA Lagos-based lawyer and activist, Mr. Festus Keyamo, in a telephone conversation, seemed to partly agree that the judiciary shares part of the blame. He said that the entire criminal justice system in the country ought to be overhauled.
Keyamo expressed the view that until the soiled finger was amputated, it would keep smearing other fingers.
He said, “Prison congestion is a perennial problem. The government knows what to do. We have always been canvassing the best approach, but to no avail.
“I think the whole criminal justice system should be overhauled. Until that is done, the police, the judiciary and the prison would keep having the type of problems now confronting the country.”
Meanwhile, the intermittent breakdown of prison facilities and recent increase in jail breaks have been linked to the frightening violations of rights and increasing number of awaiting trial persons across the prisons.
Enobore reiterated that there was no doubt that some of Nigeria’s prisons were congested and that government was trying to redress the situation, adding that the recent jailbreak at Kuje prison could also have been caused by overcrowding.
Enobore stressed that, unfortunately, prison authorities could do nothing about the situation, saying that it was their duty to admit people brought in for the purpose of detention. “We are not the court. The criminal justice system has its functions,” he argued.
In a chat with our correspondent, Gabriel Giwa Amu, a lawyer and rights activist, who heads a Non-Government Organisation, Stephen and Solomon Foundation, decried the practice of detaining people illegally by security operatives over spurious allegations.
“Some of these persons, who are said to be awaiting trial, are being held for stealing a Nokia mobile-phone that is worth less than N3, 000. The irony of it all is that the government continues to feed them, spending tax-payers money on a matter that would have been resolved at a police station. The practice unnecessarily swells the prisons’ population of Awaiting Trial Persons,” he said.
Amu is of the view that such congestions were caused by indiscretion of some of the people that were supposed to know better.
He said, “The issue of corruption and congestion, either in the police or prisons or elsewhere, is over-flogged. The issue of arbitrarily holding people is not new and this is why we have always been calling on the relevant bodies to do something fast about it.
“We do talk, so that those who want to listen could take action. There are conventions that both the police and the judiciary have flagrantly contravened in this direction. I’m only looking forward to a day when all lawyers would appreciate humanity by taking interest in this matter.” cbbc
He added, “I am looking forward to a day that the court would strike out a case that is known to lack merit instead of adjourning. I am looking forward to a day when an accused who has spent a long time in the prison and was later discovered to be innocent of the charges, would not only be discharged and acquitted, but also compensated.
“I look forward to a day that magistrates and judges would not base cases on personal aggrandisement, but allow their conscience to direct them to do justice. Today, there are so many people in prison for offences that could have been settled at the police station level. When you tell an accused person to go and provide a landed property as collateral for bail, the condition is only being compounded.”
A detainee at the Ikoyi prison who was recently released, Oba Olarinde, while relieving his experience, said that he met more than 30 detainees in a congested cell at Adeniji Adele Federal SARS, where he spent over a month as a detainee before his arraignment.
“Those I met there were languishing in the facility without any immediate hope of breathing air of freedom. I would never wish my enemy should have a problem with the police that could warrant his or her being detained for a night,” he said.
The traditional ruler spent close to nine months as an Awaiting Trial Man at the Ikoyi prison, following his arraignment, before he was released.
Oba Olarinde told The Point that most of the people he met at the Ikoyi prisons were people who committed minor offences and were not supposed to be there in the first instance.
“Robbery suspects and petty thieves were all there, but I think government should do something urgently about their plights,” he urged.
A prison warder, who pleaded anonymity, said, “The challenge of awaiting trial people should be tackled at the police station level. Some offences demand in-house restitution between the violators and the victims.
“Here in Ikoyi Prisons, for instance, there are about 2,600 inmates as against 1,600 that could have been conveniently accommodated.”
Amu, however, called for an urgent reform of the prisons system.
“Instead of our prisons to reform, they deform; instead of our prisons to serve as deterrent, they serve as vengeance centres. Instead of prisons to deter offenders from future engagement in criminality, they encourage them to become recidivists. There is nothing like restitution and rehabilitation again.