Reps Seek Decongestion Of 244 Correctional Centres in Nigeria

During a plenary session on Wednesday, presided over by Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu, the House of Representatives initiated efforts to alleviate congestion in the 244 correctional centers across Nigeria.

Lawmakers called for a comprehensive overhaul of the system, emphasizing the need for swift dispensation of justice for awaiting trial inmates and reforms to bring the centers up to global standards in terms of rehabilitation.

The decision followed the adoption of a motion introduced by Chinedu Ogah, the member representing Ikwo/Ezza Federal Constituency in Ebonyi State.

Leading the debate on the motion tagged, “Call to decongest Nigerian correctional service,” a member of the All Progressives Congress, Ogah lamented that over 70,000 inmates in the country face inadequate facilities despite government efforts, adding that “Some have not been charged with criminal cases, while some are unable to pay the fines imposed by the courts despite having their cases determined.”

He continued, “The House is disturbed that the Nigerian criminal justice system is plagued by flaws, with cases often lingering without resolution for years, thus overcrowding the correctional centers in various geopolitical zones.

“The House is also disturbed that a data system reveals that federal offenders comprise less than 10 per cent of correctional system inmates, leaving over 90 per cent to state offenses.

“We are also alarmed that overcrowding of the correctional facilities has led to a huge revenue drain for successive governments, leading to prison dilapidation, criminalization, and inability to separate awaiting trial inmates from convicted ones,” stressing that implementing the criminal justice system and the adoption of non-custodial measures would effectively reduce the overcrowding of national prisons.”

While referring the motion to its Committee on Interior, the House urged the Federal and state governments to provide comprehensive reforms of the country’s correctional system, including modernizing custodial centres, building new facilities, and redesigning the bail system.

It also tasked both layers of governments to “Propose legislation to allocate time for the speedy dispensation of justice and the number of inmates awaiting trial; examine the role of the federal and state governments in the correction of inmates; propose sustainable, efficient solutions to address the congestion in 244 jails nationwide and devise and promote effective reformation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of inmates.”

The House also called on the federal and state governments to utilize their prerogatives of mercy to grant amnesty to deserving inmates, just as it urged the Federal Ministry of Justice to prevent delays in justice dispensation and enhance the process of meeting bail conditions.”

It further called on security agencies to avoid arbitrary arrests.