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THE SENATE on Tuesday urged the Federal Government to quickly take steps to reduce the population in the nation’s correctional centres as well as disinfect them to avoid any possible outbreak of an epidemic among inmates.
Uche Ekwunife, a PDP senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District, who moved the motion said it was a matter of urgency for the state of correctional facilities in Nigeria to be looked into.
Ekunife who canvassed that the centres be upgraded was corroborated by Abba Moro, also a PDP senator representing Benue South Senatorial district, who noted that the motion was timely.
Moro, a former Minister of Interior under which the correctional cemtres fall added that over 70 per cent of prison inmates were awaiting trial.
He further lamented that steps taken in the past to address the situation have not yielded.
“Every effort taken has not addressed the problem. We must make a bold attempt to ensure this problem is solved once and for all,” he said.
Supporting the motion, Gabriel Suswam, a former governor of Benue State and senator representing Benue North East, Benue State maintained that the centres needed to be disinfected urgently.
‘’On disinfecting the place, we need to as a matter of urgency urge the appropriate authority to address the issue raised, and most of the people who are there do not need to be there and they are congesting the place,” Suswam said.
Rochas Okorocha, senator representing Imo West Senatorial District noted that the Nigerian prison environment has been in a bad and terrible shape.
The centres, he said, were not the best place to be, urging the Federal Government to budget more to build new prisons.
The Red Chamber called on the authorities managing the correctional centres to adequately profile inmates and separate them accordingly to avoid lumping of light or first offenders with hardened criminals.
It particularly called for a national clean up as well as fumigation of all correctional facilities in the country to avoid outbreak of epidemics.
The Senate also advised the Federal Ministry of Interior to commence the process of upgrading facilities in all the correctional centres while also adding that the Judiciary, the Ministry of Interior and correctional centres need to work together and come up with a workable modality on how to fast track the process of de-congesting the correctional centres in the country.
Last year August, President Muhammadu Buhari, signed the prison reform bill which sought to solve the challenges of prisons in Nigeria. The new law changed the name of the Nigeria’s Prison Services to the Nigeria’s Correctional Services.
Nigeria’s Correctional Services currently has about 250 prisons of which 155 are prisons for convicts and 83 are satellite facilities and with 74,000 inmates.
According to a report by VOA, an average Nigerian prison houses about five times the number of inmates it was intended for.
Overcrowding being one of the many challenges of the average Nigerian prisons poses a great threat as one of the prisons in the Southeast houses more than 4,000 inmates whereas it was built for 804.
Out of the nearly 74,000 inmates in the country, only about 24,000 have actually been convicted. That means 68 percent of the total prison population is awaiting trial.