House Urges FG, States to Provide Comprehensive Reforms of Correctional System

Juliet Akoje in Abuja

The House of Representatives has urged the sederal and state governments to provide comprehensive reforms of the country’s correctional system, including modernising custodial centres, building new facilities, and redesigning the bail system.

It also proposed legislation to allocate time for the speedy dispensation of justice and reduce the number of inmates awaiting trial; examine the role of the federal and state governments in the correction of inmates.

The lawmakers further urged the federal government to proposed sustainable, efficient solutions to address the congestion in 244 jails nationwide and the effective implementation of non-custodial measures; devise and promote effective reformation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of inmates; and to utilise its prerogative of mercy to grant amnesty to deserving inmates.

Consequently, the House urged the Federal Ministry of Justice to prevent delays in justice dispensation and enhance the process of meeting bail conditions and further urged the security agencies to avoid arbitrary arrests.

These resolutions followed the motion calling  to decongest Nigerian Correctional Services moved by Hon. Chinedu Ogah at plenary yesterday.

Ogah noted that the Nigerian Correctional Service, a federal entity under the Ministry of Interior, is a part of the Criminal Justice System under Exclusive list and that the Nigerian prisons were mandated to reform, rehabilitate, and ensure effective reintegration of offenders into society in line with universally accepted standards.

He raised a concern that over 70,000 inmates in the country face inadequate facilities despite government efforts, and some have not been charged with criminal cases, while some are unable to pay the fines imposed by the courts despite having their cases determined.

“Disturbed that the Nigerian criminal justice system is plagued by flaws, with cases often lingering without resolution for years, thus overcrowding the correctional centres in various geopolitical zones. Also disturbed that a data system reveals that federal offenders comprise less than 10 percent of correctional system inmates, leaving over 90 percent to state offences.

“Overcrowding of the correctional facilities has led to a huge revenue drain for successive governments, leading to prison dilapidation, criminalisation, and inability to separate awaiting trial inmates from convicted ones. Cognizant that implementing the criminal justice system and the adoption of non-custodial measures would effectively reduce the overcrowding of national prisons.”

However, the House has mandated its Committee on Justice to ensure compliance.

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