Senate to Ascertain Status of Nigeria-UK Prisoner Transfer Agreement


Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The Senate on Tuesday directed its Committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and Foreign Affairs to investigate the current status of the prisoner repatriation agreement between Nigeria and the United Kingdom to shed more light on the issue of transfer of sentenced persons.

It also directed the committees to invite the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney General of the Federation to give an update on the status of ratification of all treaties from 1999-2017.

The resolution was sequel to a motion sponsored by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who noted that even though the agreement is yet to be ratified by the National Assembly, the Government of UK has commenced the return of several prisoners to Nigeria, and has initiated the application for the transfer of more prisoners to Nigeria.

The agreement was signed in January 2014 with former Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, signing on behalf of Nigeria.
Ekwermadu expressed worry that the agreement provides for transfer of sentenced persons with or without consent, negating similar agreements within the Commonwealth, that such transfer must be consented to by the convicted offender.

“Further aware that the United Kingdom Government has referred to this agreement as compulsory, whereas the content of the agreement made no mention nor indicated that the agreement was compulsory,” he said.
“The issue of consent of the prisoner is akin to the fundamental human rights as provided by the constitution, therefore where a prisoner’s right to consent is taken away, as is the nature of this agreement, the agreement is said to have violated the basic tenets of fundamental human rights,” he said.

Ekweremadu expressed worry that the British National Offender Management Service may be under a misinformed impression that all the internal procedures have been completed, warranting the entry into force of the agreement.
Contributing, Senator Ben Murray Bruce (Bayelsa East) said while there are no British prisoners in Nigerian jails, the British Government has an incentive to implement the agreement with over 5,000 Nigerians in its jails.
He added that the committee should also ascertain the jail term determination for prisoners transferred to Nigeria in the repatriation agreement with Thailand.

“Some persons were brought in from Thailand to Nigeria; if a man was convicted and sentenced to a 10 year jail term in Thailand, and he has served five years on his return to Nigeria, does he serve the remaining jail term, or he starts all over?” Bruce said.
The relevant committees are expected to report back in one month, for further legislative action.
In another development, the Senate also resolved to conduct a public hearing into the poor living conditions in Queens College Lagos which led to the recent death of three students.

It also directed the Minister of Education to urgently ensure infrastructure upgrade in the school, and also provide safe sewage treatment as well as expand the current boarding facilities to decongest the dormitories.
The resolution followed a motion sponsored by Senator Binta Masi Garba (Adamawa North) and five co-sponsors, who lamented the sorry state of the oldest all girls unity school in Nigeria.

She recalled that the school was recently shut down following a wave of sickness by hundreds of students, from poor hygienic conditions, culminating in the death of three students.
“Such issues as severe over-population and poor care for the student population part of which reportedly resulted in the death of three young girls namely Vivian Osuinyi on February 14, 2017, Bithia Itulua on February 22, 2017 and Praise Sodipo on March 30, 2017, are clearly matters within the borders of criminal negligence,” the senator said.

The Senate also directed its Committees on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy, to invite the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Nigeria Electricity Management Services Agency and the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC), to ascertain the remote and immediate causes of the accident, which led to the death of seven persons in Calabar at a football viewing centre.

Seven youth had been fatally electrocuted on April 22, 2017, when a high tension cable belonging to the PHEDC fell on the viewing center.
The resolution of the Senate followed a motion sponsored by Senator Gershom Bassey (Cross River South) who noted that the PHEDC should be responsible for regular checks on its electrical installations in all areas of its operations.