Nigerian prisons below UN standards – Dambazua

Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau on Tuesday said the Nigerian prisons are still below United Nations minimum standard even as he revealed that efforts were being made to meet up with the UN requirement.

The Minister who disclosed this in Abakaliki while inspecting the new prisons being constructed by the Ebonyi state government regretted that over 70 percent of prisons inmates in Nigerian prisons are awaiting trials.

He was in the state on a two days working visit.

Dambazau said the Nigerian Prisons Service, NPS, was working hard to ensuring that prisons are decongested across the country.

He however, noted that the task of decongesting the prisons did not squarely rest on NPS as the Nigeria Police and the Judiciary have enormous role to play.

“We need to get to the UN minimum standard of rehabilitation of prisoners. But one of the most important things is to make sure the prisons are decongested, because 70% of inmates in Nigeria prisons are waiting trials. We need to deal with that issue but this cannot be done by the NPS.

“Nigeria prisons are just a ware house for inmates who are either convicted or awaiting trials. If a warrant is given to them they cannot reject it. So, they have to keep the inmates. But we are working on how to decongest the prisons.

“To deal with decongestion, we have to work with the police and the law court. The police must have to properly investigate before charging a matter to court. Otherwise, if you charge a matter to court without it being properly investigated,it certainly hamper speedy dispensation of justice; and the law Court we have to deal with unnecessary court adjournment”.

“But what the NPS will do is to concentrate on the issue of rehabilitation of prisoners,because it doesn’t make sense when you send one to prison and he returns worse than he came”.

Dambazau said NPS was also working hard to improve the welfare of both prisoners and the prisons officials as especially on the areas of training and capacity building.

“Also, we are working on the welfare of prisoners and the prisons officials. Another thing is capacity building. The issue of capacity building was a serious when we came to office and we have been able to deal with it though the challenge is still there. But we have come up with trainings and capacity building”.

He further disclosed that the days of indiscriminate promotion in NPS was over as every promotion would now be based on merit no matter your rank.

“As a matter of policy, now, we have said nobody can be promoted from one rank to another without certain requirements. What you find is that we have two groups of persons who form the majority of the service.  One group, you find somebody within 1-2-3 years is getting promotions up to three times without working for it; and you have another group who stay for 10 to 15 years without promotion”.

“And you will find out that both groups don’t have motivation. The first group will say, after all I can be promoted any time, why do I need to work hard; and the other group will say, I have been there, no promotion; why do I need to work. But now, we want to remove that, so that merit will determine who gets promotion. These are some of the reforms we are doing in the NPS”.

While commending Ebonyi state government for their cooperation and support to NPS especially for embarking on the ultra-modern prison, Mr Dambazua urged other states to emulate the state’s gesture so as to improve the living standards of prisoners in their states.

“So, we need cooperation and support from the state government. After all, if we check the prison, you will find out the majority of the inmates are Ebonyians and if you go to Kano, you will find out that the majority of the prisoners there are from Kano.

“So, we need more of this and we thank you for this support. I have an idea of how much you spent on this project because I am also involved in this building process. That is why I know that Ebonyi state government is putting huge resources into this project and we really appreciate. I will even ask the Comptroller General to write letter of appreciation if he has not done that to Ebonyi state government”, he concluded.

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