• 2013 report cites 600,000 children

Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

The House of Representatives has expressed worry at the increasing number of babies and children living in prisons and detention centres across the country along with their imprisoned mothers.

The members of the lower House lamented that the sight of toddlers have become a common sight in prisons, as some women go to prison pregnant or take along their children who are too young to be left alone, or they have no one willing to take the children under their care while the mothers serve their sentences.

The House called on the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development to ensure that provisions are made for the feeding and welfare of babies born in prison and toddlers living with their incarcerated mothers.

It also called on the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria to help ensure the speedy trial of pregnant women and nursing mothers who are in jail awaiting trial.

The resolutions of the House followed a motion sponsored by Hon. Omosede Igbinedion (Edo PDP) who noted that the situation can be emotionally stressful for the mothers and the children.

Omosede cited the 2013 Report of the African Union on the Rights and Welfare of the Nigerian Child which noted that 600,000 children were in Nigerian prisons. Some of the mothers went to jail while pregnant, and gave birth, she noted.

Many children in such circumstances have died in jail for lack of adequate care, she said. “The sight of unkempt looking babies in our prisons shames our sense of decency and strips us of our dignity as a nation,” Igbinedion added.

Contributing to the debate, Hon. Jagaba Adams Jagaba (Kaduna APC) said it is necessary to investigate reports of female convicts getting pregnant while in prison.

“It is an indication that some serious activities are taking place within the prison environment, or what else can be the explanation? We have to look in that direction,” he said.

Presiding, Speaker Yakubu Dogara directed the Committees of Interior and Women Affairs to monitor compliance with the resolutions and report back for further legislative action.