Overpopulation and congestion are rife problems for correctional and rehabilitation services in Nigeria. The prison system in Nigeria is in desperate need of reforms to improve the awful conditions.
The number of inmates classified as awaiting trial persons accounts for more than 70% of the prison population, which is the reason for the overcrowding in Nigerian prisons. According to data from surveys conducted by the Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), only 21,354 of the approximate 68,110 inmates were actually convicted, with the remaining 46,756 were awaiting trials.
According to infoguidenigeria.com, prison cells measure 32ft in length and 28ft in width. These cells contain roughly 100 inmates inside.
It is evident that the criminal justice system of Nigeria is overstrained and unable to respond to an increase in crime.
“Records suggest that the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison in Lagos is overcrowded by 250 percent,” according to Unite Nigeria. The prison, which was designed to hold 956 people, now houses almost 2,600. “The majority of these detainees are awaiting trial.”
Mr. Olusola Ogundipe, former Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Prison Service, says the majority of the inmates are detained for minor offenses for which bail is available. Ogundipe further added, “for many of the detainees, there are no case files.”
Kenya previously experienced the same predicament that Nigeria finds itself in and put measures in place to curb the situation. In 2016, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta announced the release of 7,000 inmates who were nearing the end of their sentence, and those who had committed minor offenses would also be released to make room for serious crime offenders.
Malachy Ugwummadu, activist and former Secretary Campaign for Democracy and Human Rights, expressed the need for more permanent solutions. “Let us not just take incentives from the mass release of inmates in Kenya, but look for lasting solutions, like the full implementation of the ACJA, parole of prisoners that are almost done serving their sentence, provision for community service for minor offenders, and things as little as getting case files for the accused, and state-sponsored competent lawyers for inmates who cannot afford to hire their personal lawyer.” He then urged for the adoption of the Criminal Justice Act by Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. He also called for the proper documentation of the names and crimes of inmates.
The obligation of rehabilitating and reforming felons and Nigerian penitentiaries is not being fulfilled. Nigerian prisoners are much more likely to be released as ‘threats to society.’ The conditions in these prisons are inhumane and the lack of basic resources inside causes the prisoners to be aggressive and belligerent.