Thursday, July 16, 2020


Prison and Detention Centre Conditions

Prison and detention centre conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Most of the country’s 234 prisons, built 70 to 80 years earlier, lacked basic facilities. The system included 11 maximum security prisons, 80 satellite prisons, 10 farm centres, eight zonal offices, and six directorates, all of which held prisoners and detainees.

The Nigerian Prison Service released statistics at the end of May showing that the country’s prisons held 48,124 inmates. In May 2013, Comptroller General of Prisons Olusola Ogundipe announced that the prisons held an additional 1,000 persons for alleged involvement in April postelection violence, most of whom subsequently gained their release.

Individual prisons held as much as 500 percent of their designed capacity. For example, the Owerri Federal Prison had a capacity of 548 prisoners but held more than 1,635. Ogwuashi-Uku prison in Delta State, with a capacity of 64 prisoners, housed 358, while Port Harcourt prison, with a capacity of 804 prisoners, held 2,594. Of the inmate population, approximately 2 percent were female and 1 percent juveniles.

Lack of potable water, inadequate sewage facilities, and severe overcrowding resulted in dangerous and unsanitary conditions. Disease remained pervasive in cramped, poorly ventilated prison facilities, which had chronic shortages of medical supplies.

Inadequate medical treatment caused many prisoners to die from treatable illnesses. Prison illnesses included HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. Inmates with these illnesses lived with the regular population. Although authorities attempted to isolate persons with communicable diseases, the facilities often lacked the space to do so.

Prison authorities claimed that the death rate in prisons was 89 out of 1,500 prisoners per year; however, no reliable independent statistics existed on the number of prison deaths.

Only those prisoners with money, or whose relatives brought food regularly, had sufficient food; prison officials routinely stole money provided for food for prisoners. Poor inmates often relied on handouts from others to survive. Prison officials, police, and other security forces often denied inmates food and medical treatment as punishment or to extort money.

Prisoners with mental disabilities remained incarcerated with the general prison population. Individual prisons made efforts to provide mental health facilities, but most prisons did not provide mental health care.

The federal government operated all the country’s prisons but maintained few pretrial jail facilities. Of the total prison population, 70 percent were pretrial detainees.

Authorities sometimes held female and male prisoners together, especially in rural areas, and prisons had no facilities to care for pregnant women or nursing mothers. Infants born to inmate mothers usually remained with the mother until weaned.

Although the law precludes the imprisonment of children, minors lived in the country’s prisons, many of whom were born there.

A report by the African Union on the rights and welfare of the Nigerian child found that an estimated 6,000 children lived in prison and detention centres. Despite a government order to identify and release such children and their mothers, authorities had not solved the problem by year’s end.

Authorities held political prisoners with the general prison population, not separately.

Prison authorities allowed visitors within a scheduled time frame. Few visitors came due to lack of family resources and travel distance. Prisoners could attend religious observances, although prisons often did not have equal facilities for both Muslim and Christian worship. In some prisons outside clergy constructed chapels or mosques.

Prisoner complaints centred on access to court proceedings, as in many cases inmates lacked transportation to attend a court hearing. No effective system existed for monitoring prisons for inhumane conditions. All prisons suffered from poor facilities, overcrowding, and lack of resources.

There were no regular outside monitors of the prisons, and no statistics on the mistreatment of prisoners or availability of food or medical care.

The government provided access to prisons for monitoring conditions, although few outside visits occurred. The local Red Cross made attempts to visit prisons but could not maintain a regular visit schedule. Authorities inconsistently maintained records for individual prisoners in paper form but without making them widely accessible.

The country does not provide services of an ombudsman who can serve on behalf of prisoners and detainees to consider such matters as creating alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders to alleviate overcrowding; addressing the status and circumstances of confinement of juvenile offenders; or improving pretrial detention, bail, or record keeping procedures to ensure that prisoners do not serve beyond the maximum sentence for the charged offense.

The government did not make widespread improvements to prisons during the year, but individual prison administrations attempted to collect donations to benefit the inmates.

For example, benefactors contributed facilities to help alleviate overpopulated prisons.


Prison as a form of punishment, rehabilitation, and correction institution for offenders should be located in a congenial atmosphere where its purpose can be fulfilled. 

That is, where the prisoners are able to serve their sentence, and at the same time, able to reflect 

(1) not to re-offend. 

(2) to be able to learn a trade. 

These may also help the offenders to be law abiding citizens after the completion of their term, become useful to the society, able to fend for themselves and their families, legally, and also may increase the national income of the state, in form of tax contribution from ex- offenders trade. 

Therefore, if an individual design an initiative that can help the offenders to be law abiding citizens, ease their numerous unnecessary problems, during their terms in prison and afterwards. 

I think this initiative should be embrace and supported both by government and individuals for mutual benefit of government and its populace, in reducing crime and criminals in our society. 

Economy, political, and social activities thrive in a society where people are not stigmatized for their past mistakes, which has been corrected.

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