Pilot Law

Nigeria Prisons reformed or deformed?


By Kayode Adeoti

The Nigeria prison yards, for some years, have been calling for general overhauling following its deteriorating condition. The pictures of inmates circulating on the internet, showing the kind of horrendous rooms they sleep, the squelchy soup they feed on further attest to its deplorable state.
Research shows recently that many of these prisoners who were condemned, convicted or awaiting trial magistrate have on their bodies, one disease or the other which they contacted as a result of the poor living condition in their various cell rooms.
Prison yard, according to its purpose of establishment by Federal Government, is to ensure law offenders’ reformation, rehabilitation, and social integration back into the society.
The prevailing question on the lips of many in the society is; despite the money government claimed it has expended on the sector, can one be bold to say, it’s still serving raison d’être of its creation?
Recently, Pilot Law was in a team with Kwara State Chief Judge, Justice Sulyman Kawu to inspect the prison yards located in Ilorin the state capital, as it was observed, due to undernourishment, the appearance of some of these inmates is enough to give anyone visiting the jail house, panic attack.
While receiving some members of the bench and the state prosecutors, the officer-in-charge of prison, Ilorin branch, Oyun Adeyinka Adebayo, confirmed the contention of members of the public that the prison is over-crowded even as he urged government to rise up to the situation.
According to him, the prison lacks facilities to admit its present numbers of inmates, it’s over-crowded, and effect of this is evidence on the momentous number of them who have contacted diseases like rashes and craw-craw.
Recounting his ordeal with this medium is Kazeem Afolabi who just completed his jail terms at Oke-Kura Federal Prison yard, last month.
Afolabi, in his account, stated that the prison is congested and amenities to maintain it, are not in place. He added, saying, there are not enough toilets as prisoners pile up excreta in the toilet.
“The major bane of contention in the prison system is succinctly put, congestion. It is meant to rehabilitate but reverse is the case now. It is a place where criminal groups are regrouped and new operations are conceived for next line of execution after they might have gained freedom. Till now, government has not seen need to house inmate based on offences committed. Imagine a cubicle size prison housing 70 inmates, and we think such situation will not breed infections?
“Where I was camped, only one toilet was available for us, we piled up excreta, no water to flush or do other necessary things,” Afolabi stated.
Speaking further, Afolabi noted that, in Oke-Kura, cells 6, 7 and 8 were supposed to house 20 inmates but above 62 persons were forced to live  in them, adding that no chemical to kill bugs and other creepy-crawly creatures that have made feeding on inmate flesh and blood natural right.
In the same vein, an ex-inmate who pleaded anonymity with Pilot Law disclosed that prison yards, everywhere in the country, are in categories. He said, if one has money, he or she can go for cells 4 or 5 which are the only two cells that have beds in Oke Kura, Ilorin.
“I slept on mat all through my stay there, those mats have been eaten up by bugs, no light to pump water, and we eat three times a day but poor food. We learnt government budgeted N350 per meal for us, but the food I ate while I was there did not measure up to N50. Mostly, we ate ‘Eba with Orunla (grounded dry Okro) soup. The soup was watery, lacked taste because it had no ingredients like maggi and oil. It was always as if I’m eating uncooked food,” he divulged.
According to him, there are 3 cells for Awaiting Trial Magistrate (ATM) each contains more than 60 prisoners and cells 4 and 5, considering there specialty, house about 15 inmates each. “It is only cells 4 and 5 that have beds, they are meant for the rich and it goes for N5000 per month,” he said.
The ex-Inmate noted that cells 1 and 2, each contain 40 inmates are designated for the convicts. ‘The cell allotted to the condemned inmates is the worst of all, having small window and house over 60 of them at a time.
Similarly, an ex-convict, who simply wants to be identified as Olasegun, served 3 years jail term  in Ikoyi Prison, Lagos State a year ago, in a telephone chat with Pilot Law yesterday, called on government to as a matter of urgency, separate inmates cells based on crimes.
“We are getting it wrong in this country, the earlier we begin the system of separating inmates cells based on crime committed, the better for the society. When I was first jailed for three months, for petty offence I committed in Lagos, the people I met in prison affected my life negatively; there was nothing evil I was not taught, smoking later became my habitual hobby and…
“When I was freed, I renewed friendship with my contemporaries who equally gained freedom that same period. Some of us ended up in jail again… It has always been a terrible experience which I hate to recount, but I thank God, I was out a year ago and I’m changed for the better because God changed me” he recounted.
Reacting to the development, an erudite legal practitioner in the state, Mallam Yusuf Ola-Olu Ali SAN, urged the Federal Government to fulfil its promise of rehabilitating the sector.
He said, “The reformation is better late than never, at least, it is coming now, they should put it on the table, because, prison system cannot be abolished in the country, it should be a rehabilitation centre not where people go as petty thieves and come out as hardened criminals, to reposition it in a better form, no effort is little or late.”
Also maintaining that the prison is congested and require overhauling is, Command Prison Controller, Borstal Training Institution, Ilorin branch, Akinwale Folashade. She noted that the congestion has nothing to do with the prison service but it is as a result of the governmental system.
“The congestion in the prison could be traced to many factors; judicial and the police, failure of the system is another contributory cause, not the prison service per se. We all know that the prison service needs an overhauling, some of those things are policy matters which I may not be in position to speak on…” she stressed.

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