The president Buhari led APC government was voted into power on the promise of CHANGE, but two and half years later, that change is yet to be seen in the most critical area-the prison system of Nigeria which has 50,760 inmates awaiting trial nationwide,854 juveniles in awaiting trial,2251 condemned prisoners with 47 being female and 23,217 inmates convicted and serving.
Such a figure shows something is wrong with the Nigerian system. NO PLACE IN THE WORLD CAN SUCH A SHOCKING AND SORROWFUL AND SHAMEFUL SITUATION BE FOUND EXCEPT IN NIGERIA.
Many of those on awaiting trial are sometimes innocent, others are there because of one law or the other that is obsolete and the inefficiency of the judiciary and police as well as the penal system that needs an overhaul, others cannot pay a fine of N20,000 or more and so rot in prison. The fact that Nigeria spends about N8.4 billion annually to feed inmates on awaiting trial with a daily feeding allowance of N450.
Nigerians in awaiting trial are undergoing HELLFIRE here on earth and no one who is in a position of power cares to do something, all these years, since the matter got out of hand. The Buhari administration inherited and continues in this policy of no interest in the affairs of the awaiting trials-nobody cares, or few cares.
We list below 4 ways President Buhari can change the prison system in Nigeria.
1.BUILD MORE PRISONS-most of our prisons were built by our colonial masters, and little have been done to upgrade and build new ones-while the number of inmates keep increasing and they are packed like sardine inside the prisons. New buildings should also be erected in existing prisons to accommodate inmates.
2.SET UP PENAL REFORM COMMITTEES-the government should set up penal reform committees with the mandate to provide a clear blue print for the reform of the Nigeria prison system, they should throw open the floor for inputs from the public and those involved in the prison system and laws, to contribute. If possible, it could also be done in such away that each state or zone has its own committee and then a national one that can coordinate.
3. AMNESTY FOR AWAITING TRIAL PERSONS- The federal government should announce an amnesty for awaiting trial persons. If amnesty programmes can be created for militants and Boko Haram terrorists, why not for awaiting trial persons-in this way the prisons can be congested.
4. PROGRAMMES FOR THE EMPOWERMENT OF EX-PRISONERS-since after the time of the colonial masters, our prisons have turned into punitive centers alone, instead of punitive and reformation centers. Very little or nothing is done to support and fund empowerment for ex-prisoners and ex-awaiting trial persons. They are no federal or State government funds were they can access funds to start up business after their release. The private sector has also not provided any funds for this. This is so sad.
NO WONDER WHY MANY THEM WHEN THEY ARE RELEASED FROM PRISON, WITHIN MONTHS COMMIT ANOTHER CRIME AND SOME Ends UP IN PRISON AGAIN. A SYSTEM THAT ENSURE THEY REMAIN IN CRIME NEED TO BE REPLACED BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE. Government can establish grants to NGOs who when they access such funds, will use it to create and manage programmes to empower ex inmates and their families, because if such programmes are left to government, corrupt civil servants and politicians may hijack the progammes and the ugly head of corruption would erode the gains the programme might make.
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