Nigeria: Prison Conditions 'Appalling'

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

PRESS RELEASE

AI Index: AFR 44/019/2007 (Public)

News Service No: 157

15 August 2007

Nigeria: Amnesty International delegates say prison conditions 'appalling'

Amnesty International researchers, recently returned from Nigeria, have expressed shock at the prison conditions they witnessed and the protracted delays in Nigeria's justice system.

"The circumstances under which the Nigerian government locks up its inmates are appalling. Many inmates are left for years awaiting trial in filthy overcrowded cells with children and adults often held together," said Aster van Kregten, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International. "Some prisoners are called 'forgotten inmates' as they never go to court and nobody knows how much longer their detention will last, simply because their case files are lost."

The Amnesty International delegation spent two weeks in Nigeria, visiting 10 prisons in the states of Enugu, Kano and Lagos, and in the Federal Capital Territory.

In the wake of its findings, the organisation called on the Nigerian government to properly fund urgent prison improvements and ensure all inmates are tried within reasonable time.

Inmates in many prisons routinely sleep two to a bed or on the floor in squalid cells. Toilets, often little more than holes in the floor, are generally overflowing by the end of each day. Disease is rampant in the filth and close quarters.

Three out of every five people in Nigeria's prisons are awaiting trial, often for years. Amnesty International researchers spoke to several detainees who reported that they had each spent eight years or more waiting for their cases to conclude. Protracted pre-trial detention is so commonplace in Nigeria that periodic presidential and gubernatorial amnesties are routinely extended to those who have spent more time in prison awaiting trial than the maximum sentence they could receive if eventually convicted.

Children under the age of eighteen were held together with adults in four of the largest prisons Amnesty International visited. In Kuje Prison, located in the Federal Capital Territory, 30 boys - some as young as 11 and 12 - shared a dormitory with over 175 adult men.

By law, Nigeria's prisons are tasked with inmates' rehabilitation. Some facilities visited by Amnesty International offered schooling or work opportunities to a limited number of prisoners, but even these centers lacked sufficient books, instructional supplies, and vocational training materials.

All facilities had medical staff and "welfare" officers, personnel charged with safeguarding the well-being of inmates, but prisoners commonly reported that access to staff or medication was available only to those who could afford bribes.

Such extortion may be explained in part - but in no way excused - by the economic hardships guards face. Underpaid as a rule, prison guards had just received their June paychecks at the end of July, they told Amnesty International.

Amnesty International's finding confirm those of various Nigerian presidential working groups and committees as well as other national and international organisations over several years.

"Our findings should not come as any surprise to the Nigerian government since the dire situation in the country's prisons has already been highlighted by numerous experts and organisations. What is needed now is urgent government action to tackle the enormous human misery and injustice of this situation, said Michael Bochenek, Amnesty International's Director of Policy and a member of the delegation to Nigeria.

Amnesty International will release a full report of its findings later this year.

Public Document

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Re: Nigeria: Prison Conditions `Appalling`
Fredlintaz posted on 08-16-2007, 11:10:30 AM
Shouldn't this be a primary focus for the new Federal Attorney General instead of flexing his muscles over the EFCC and others?

What is disheartening is that people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty but with the large amount of awaiting trial prisoners (three out of every five prisoners, according to Amnesty), Nigeria is pretty much jailing people for being poor. The rich can bribe their way out and with expensive lawyers, they can at least attempt to get (or buy) justice.
Re: Nigeria: Prison Conditions `Appalling`
Dimaanu posted on 08-16-2007, 11:20:55 AM
QUOTE:
Inmates in many prisons routinely sleep two to a bed or on the floor in squalid cells. Toilets, often little more than holes in the floor, are generally overflowing by the end of each day. Disease is rampant in the filth and close quarters.


This condition applies to so many Nigerians, living in squalor.
In essence, the average Nigerian is a prisoner and until something is done to eradicate poverty, prisoners will only be released into another kind of prison.
May God heal our land!
Re: Nigeria: Prison Conditions `Appalling`
DaBishop posted on 08-17-2007, 07:23:22 AM
QUOTE:
The Amnesty International delegation spent two weeks in Nigeria, visiting 10 prisons in the states of Enugu, Kano and Lagos, and in the Federal Capital Territory.

In the wake of its findings, the organisation called on the Nigerian government to properly fund urgent prison improvements and ensure all inmates are tried within reasonable time.

Inmates in many prisons routinely sleep two to a bed or on the floor in squalid cells. Toilets, often little more than holes in the floor, are generally overflowing by the end of each day. Disease is rampant in the filth and close quarters.

Three out of every five people in Nigeria’s prisons are awaiting trial, often for years. Amnesty International researchers spoke to several detainees who reported that they had each spent eight years or more waiting for their cases to conclude. Protracted pre-trial detention is so commonplace in Nigeria that periodic presidential and gubernatorial amnesties are routinely extended to those who have spent more time in prison awaiting trial than the maximum sentence they could receive if eventually convicted.


1. Could the Attorney-General tell us that these persons have Due Process?

2. If the answer is negative, why is a memo to PoFRN not a priority?

3. What determined his prioritizing of the memo regarding EFCC while every litigating counsel knows of the scandal of Awaiting Trial Prisoners and blushes with shame each time they line up in Court?

The shame of it is that the persons who are alleged to have stolen the resources to clear the back-log are given preference in hearing!!!!
Re: Nigeria: Prison Conditions `Appalling`
Ikechiji posted on 08-17-2007, 13:03:19 PM
1. The Nigerian Prisons Service is under the Minister of Internal Affairs not Attorney General. The squalor in the prisons should be placed at their doorstep.

2. That Nigerians in prison have been awaiting trial for years in violation of their fundamental human rights is the fault of the Judiciary (Court System) not Attorney-General.

Our new-found prison advocates should propose solutions to the issues raised by Amnesty International instead attempting to politicize it.
Re: Nigeria: Prison Conditions `Appalling`
DaBishop posted on 08-21-2007, 10:25:04 AM
QUOTE:
1. The Nigerian Prisons Service is under the Minister of Internal Affairs not Attorney General. The squalor in the prisons should be placed at their doorstep.

2. That Nigerians in prison have been awaiting trial for years in violation of their fundamental human rights is the fault of the Judiciary (Court System) not Attorney-General.

Our new-found prison advocates should propose solutions to the issues raised by Amnesty International instead attempting to politicize it.


I forgive you because while you seek to defend the A-G, not being a lawyer, you naturally display a lack of knowledge of our legal system.

Persons who are awaiting trial are not prisoners...they are 'accused persons' waiting for trial. In their respective trials, they could be found guilty, in which case they become prisoners and guests of the Nigeria Prisons Service...

They could also be found "Not Guilty" in which case they may have been held for x number of years in jail while they were innocent...While they await trial, they are under the A-G.

The A-G is a double position. He is the chief Prosecutor as well as the Minister of Justice. He is therefore, the political head of the Judicial System with the authority to fix the system if he wills to do so. He also has the responsibility to make things work well...

I hope that explains why Awaiting Trial should be his priority. It is not politics to say they deserve not to be held in jail or a speedy trial in accord with the constitution and not just politicians accused of looting the treasury...My point really is; Awaiting Trial prisoners deserve Due Process too! That is, not to be held for more than 48 hrs in jail or any holding cell!

Every litigating attorney knows this...and is unhappy about it; if even for selfish reasons, it holds up court processes...
Re: Nigeria: Prison Conditions `Appalling`
Ikechiji posted on 08-21-2007, 10:56:59 AM
QUOTE:
I forgive you because while you seek to defend the A-G, not being a lawyer, you naturally display a lack of knowledge of our legal system.

Persons who are awaiting trial are not prisoners...they are 'accused persons' waiting for trial. In their respective trials, they could be found guilty, in which case they become prisoners and guests of the Nigeria Prisons Service...

They could also be found \"Not Guilty\" in which case they may have been held for x number of years in jail while they were innocent...While they await trial, they are under the A-G.

The A-G is a double position. He is the chief Prosecutor as well as the Minister of Justice. He is therefore, the political head of the Judicial System with the authority to fix the system if he wills to do so. He also has the responsibility to make things work well...

I hope that explains why Awaiting Trial should be his priority. It is not politics to say they deserve not to be held in jail or a speedy trial in accord with the constitution and not just politicians accused of looting the treasury...My point really is; Awaiting Trial prisoners deserve Due Process too! That is, not to be held for more than 48 hrs in jail or any holding cell!

Every litigating attorney knows this...and is unhappy about it; if even for selfish reasons, it holds up court processes...


Ula-Lisa,

1. I did not state that people awaiting trial are "prisoners".

2. It is the judge that decides on bail on lack of bail for people accused of crimes.

3. Accused people who are denied bail are remanded to prison custody based on the Judge's order not the A-G's.

4. The judge is in charge of the trial of accused people not the A-G. How fast or slow a trial moves is purely at the discretion of the judge, excluding statutory requirements for filing of briefs, etc. The prosecutor and defense attorneys may attempt to stall a trial but it is ultimately up to the judge to accept or deny their motions.

You definitely need to go back to law school.

Ikechiji
Re: Nigeria: Prison Conditions `Appalling`
DaBishop posted on 08-21-2007, 11:03:33 AM
QUOTE:
Ula-Lisa,

1. I did not state that people awaiting trial are \"prisoners\".

2. It is the judge that decides on bail on lack of bail for people accused of crimes.

3. Accused people who are denied bail are remanded to prison custody based on the Judge's order not the A-G's.

4. The judge is in charge of the trial of accused people not the A-G. How fast or slow a trial moves is purely at the discretion of the judge, excluding statutory requirements for filing of briefs, etc. The prosecutor and defense attorneys may attempt to stall a trial but it is ultimately up to the judge to accept or deny their motions.

You definitely need to go back to law school.

Ikechiji


The political responsibility of fixing all the go-slow in investigations, bail conditions, place of remand and research and proposed law to speed up things, sir...fixing our Judicial System...(even the judges need the Minister of Justice if they need new cars, court-rooms etc)...that is the way of our system in Nigeria...The responsibility for the judicial system...

...belongs to the political office of the Minister of Justice who under our laws is also, the Attorney-General of the Federation...

I ignore the bit about the need to go back to law school...for obvious reasons.
Thanks.
Re: Nigeria: Prison Conditions `Appalling`
Ikechiji posted on 08-21-2007, 11:26:14 AM
QUOTE:
The political responsibility of fixing all the go-slow in investigations, bail conditions, place of remand and research and proposed law to speed up things, sir...fixing our Judicial System...(even the judges need the Minister of Justice if they need new cars, court-rooms etc)...that is the way of our system in Nigeria...The responsibility for the judicial system...

...belongs to the political office of the Minister of Justice who under our laws is also, the Attorney-General of the Federation...

I ignore the bit about the need to go back to law school...for obvious reasons.
Thanks.


You accuse me of "naturally display a lack of knowledge of our legal system" yet when I present valid points, you resort to intangibles.

Bottom line, the A-G is not responsible for the appalling conditions in Nigerian prisons documented by Amnesty International.

The A-G is also not responsible for people remanded in prison custody who are awaiting trial in clear violation of their rights. The Judge is ultimately in charge of the courtroom and how slow or fast trials proceed.

The A-G has already stated that people should not be detained for more than 48 hours before being charged to court. Once they are charged to court, Judges "take over" custody and become in charge.
Re: Nigeria: Prison Conditions `Appalling`
DaBishop posted on 08-21-2007, 11:49:08 AM
ikechiji; My comments in bold

The A-G is also not responsible for people remanded in prison custody who are awaiting trial in clear violation of their rights. The Judge is ultimately in charge of the courtroom and how slow or fast trials proceed.

I beg to disagree. The Attorney-General/Minister of Justice is the one politically responsible for fixing the mess in our judicial system. If there are any reforms there, it is he who must initiate it.

Factually speaking from experience: One of the very upsetting excuses any practising attorney in Nigeria would tell you if he is for the Defence is when he goes to court to hear these hackneyed phrases...'we are yet to conclude our investigation' ...or 'this file has just been handed to me' ...or 'I am not the main prosecutor, I am just holding brief for xy' in application for an adjournment...which the court usually grants.

Please note, sir, that all the prosecutions whether initiated by the police or lawyers of the Ministry of Justice (state or Federal) act on behalf of 'The State' a catch-all phrase for Nigeria, represented by the Attorney-General.

There can be no reform in the Justice system without the A-G.


The A-G has already stated that people should not be detained for more than 48 hours before being charged to court. Once they are charged to court, Judges "take over" custody and become in charge.

It takes more than a declaration to decongest the Awaiting Trial cells...he knows that.
Thanks once more for sticking to the issues.


My reluctance in discussing legal issues with you is that much as you may be an enthusiast, you may lack the legal foundation to apprehend certain concepts if not explained in detail...for instance, I write about Due Process while you address the very present issue of appalling conditions in prisons...which may be a true aspect of Due Process...but not it.

Very few lay men argue with doctors or engineers in their areas of specialization, but every person is a mini-lawyer...you even urge me to go back to law school where I could be a teacher now...nineteen years post-call.

Head shaking...in wondament!
Re: Nigeria: Prison Conditions `Appalling`
Vimo posted on 08-21-2007, 12:25:39 PM
The point is that the Minister of Justice is expected to provide solutions to problems that impede the administration of justice (whether in court or in prison).

What we have seen our AG/Minister-of-Justice do is focus on administration of justice for a few (by the EFCC), what about focusing on administration of justice for the masses undergoing trials? What stops the AG from implementing reforms in the area of court proceedings? Is implementing reforms in this area outside his scope too?

Mind you, prisoners have a right to live in humane conditions. No where in our constitution does it say otherwise. Can those rights not form a critical project for our AG to pursue? If high profile persons were in these prisons, I am sure we would have heard more in this area from the AG.
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