PRAI seeks correctional facilities audit

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Our Reporter

 

THE Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative (PRAI) has called for an audit of the correctional centres in Lagos ahead of the next decongesting exercise.

In letters to the Chief Judge of Lagos State Justice Kazeem Alogba and the Attorney-General Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), the group said more inmates should be freed.

Only 15 inmates were released out of the over 5,000 awaiting trial population across the five correctional centres in Lagos during the last decongestion exercise.

PRAI recalled that in 2012, a former Chief Judge released about 250 inmates who had spent above two years in prison awaiting trial.

The group said as of March 12, inmate population across the five correctional centres in Lagos stood at 9,056, out of which 7,356 are awaiting trial.

The figure represents 81.2 per cent of the total population, with only 1,700 convicted.

PRAI, in the letters signed by its director Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem, said: “The living condition of awaiting trial persons is a total mess. A cell that should accommodate 30 persons is currently accommodating 130.

“This situation has made the spread of communicable diseases like Tuberculosis and Hypertitis B rife among this population as well as frequent deaths which are most times not made public.”

According to the group, the electrocution incident at the Ikoyi Custodial Centre last December, in which at least five awaiting trial inmates died and over 15 were injured in an extremely overcrowded cell, makes it expedient to make the next decongestion exercise effective.

It, therefore, called for an audit of the centres.

PRAI suggested that awaiting trial persons who have spent more than one year in prison for minor offences should be considered for release.

It said those who have spent more than two years for serious offences should be considered.

The group added: “An audit of all awaiting trial persons should be done to determine how long they’ve stayed in prison, for what offence and to determine the status of the cases of those who have been appearing in court but without any meaningful progress for a long period.

“An audit should be done to identify and release inmates who have spent a period longer than the maximum period of imprisonment which they could have served had they been convicted of the offence in respect of which they were detained.

“The audits mentioned above would be easier if done in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, Office of the Public Defender, the Nigerian Bar Association and active non-governmental organisations.

“Things have gone more awry now, with the influx of inmates to the prison daily.

“Ikoyi Prison, with a total capacity of 800, currently holds 3,084 out of which at least 2,600 are awaiting trial, a whopping 85 per cent.

“Beyond the release, it is high time the state government built at least a 3,000 capacity custodial centre considering the population of the state and the fact most of those in prison are there on suspicion of committing offences classified as state offences,” the group said.