The House of Representatives has mandated its Committees on Interior, Human Rights, Federal Judiciary, FCT Judiciary and Police Affairs to conduct an investigative hearing on prison reforms.
The house charged the committees to identify specific challenges, in terms of infrastructure, administration of criminal justice system and other factors that could facilitate the decongestion and reform of the prison system.
The Speaker of the house, Mr Yakubu Dogara, mandated the committees to report back in six weeks.
This was sequel to a unanimous adoption of a motion by Rep. Olufemi Fakeye (Osun -PDP) at plenary on Wednesday.
In the motion, Fakeye said that the level of congestion in prisons across the country had become so alarming that they no longer served as correctional facilities or reformation centre for inmates.
He said that information from the Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) as well as the Nigerian Prison Service (NPS) showed that only 21,354 inmates comprising 21,009 males and 345 females were convicts.
The lawmaker said that the remaining 46,756 inmates comprising 45,765 males and 991 females were still awaiting trial.
He said that due to high congestion in virtually all the prisons, the inmates were exposed to risks of epidemics, jail breaks, lack of reform, transmission of bad habits and crime techniques by hardened criminals.
He said that anti-social behaviours and moral decadence, ranging from homosexuality to other forms of human abuses had also become common features of the prisons.
According to the lawmaker, congestion in the prisons has become so acute that many cells meant to accommodate about 50 inmates now accommodate up to 150 inmates.
“For example, the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison in Lagos, built to accommodate 956 inmates, is now occupied by over 2,600 inmates,’’ he said.
The legislator expressed concern that the courts had continued to send accused persons to the already overcrowded prisons.
He pointed out that some offences could have been otherwise handled in line with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
Fakeye said that the objectives of the Criminal Justice System which was the primary purpose of governance would be negated if the poor state of the prisons was not urgently addressed.