…Urges state govt to support initiative
Foundation for Peace Professionals also known as PeacePro, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) championing advocacy for release of unsentenced prisoners in Nigeria has commended the move by the federal government of Nigeria to free 30% of Nigerian prisoners.
PeacePro has also advised the Federal Ministry of Interior, led by Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola to increase the percentage of consideration to from 30% to 70% in order to ensure a total overall of the correctional facilities, owing to the fact that more than 70% of inmates in the country are non-convicted prisoners.
In a statement by the Executive Director, Abdulrazaq Hamzat, Peacepro maintained that, setting free suspects, who have been held in detention without trial for a long period of time, is far more honourable than keeping people perpetually in prison over petty offences, insisting that such perpetual incarceration of unsentenced prisoners is considered “destructive incarceration” rather than “correctional incarceration”.
Hamzat had previously explained that, the advocacy to end “destructive incarceration” in Nigeria is part of Peacepro’s recommendation to the federal government in the Nigeria Peace Index (NPI) report, a national replica of the renown Global Peace Index.
According to him, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had shown that over 72% of people in prison cells or correctional facilities across Nigeria are unsentenced prisoners, some of whom had spent over 10 years in prison, for a crime that if convicted, they would probably spend less years in jail.
Recall that earlier, the federal government of Nigeria had announced its intention to free 30% of inmates in the country.
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola made this known when he appeared on the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja.
Aregbesola said that the interface was necessary as more than 90 per cent of the inmates were being held for contravening state laws.
The Minister also said that over 70 per cent of the 75,635 inmates at present were awaiting trial.
“Federal offenders in the system were far less than 10 per cent and the bulk of people in custody were those who have run foul of state laws, adding that the decongestion of the 253 custodial centres nationwide was necessary as some of the inmates have no reason to remain in custody.
“I have written to the Nigerian Governors Forum to allow me to come and address them on how they can support the process of decongestion”.
“Because the governors must buy into this system for us to do a massive decongestion, especially of Awaiting Trial Inmates.
“If we get the buy-in of state judicial authorities and the government of the states, we can pull out 30 per cent of those who are there.” he said.
Executive Director of Peacepro, Abdulrazaq Hamzat noted that, since the federal government also agree that more than 72% of prisoners are awaiting trial for periods longer than necessary, it is only proper to increase the percentage of prisoners in consideration for freedom from 30% to 70%.
This, Hamzat said, would help the country totally decongest the prisons, while freeing itself from the burden of holding citizens in detention without due course of justice.
He also urged state governors to support federal government efforts to correct the wrongs in the correctional service.