Awaiting Trial Inmates Constitute 73% Of Nigerians In Prisons, Says Legal Aid Council

Awaiting Trial Inmates Constitute 73% Of Nigerians In Prisons, Says Legal Aid Council

The Director-General of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, Aliyu Abubakar has said that Nigeria lacks sufficient correctional centers to accommodate inmates.

Abubakar said out of a total population of 70,000 prison inmates in Nigeria, approximately 66,000 are awaiting trials, representing 73 percent of the total prison population.

The DG made these remarks while speaking with newsmen on the sidelines of a 3-day training for pro bono lawyers and law clinicians on the Reforming Pretrial Detention in Nigeria Projects (RPDNII), organised by a civil society organisation, Public Private Development Center (PPDC) in Abuja.

He explained that the issue of congestion in the nation’s correctional centers is probably a dual problem including inadequate centres, and, more importantly, the remand system where suspects are detained for minor issues, leading to overcrowding.

“As big as we are, our correctional centers are not sufficient. It’s not that the number of cases we have is outrageous; the problem is that correctional centres meant for 500 inmates end up housing 1000 inmates, leading to overcrowding.”

He added, “As much as we are trying to get it right at the levels of investigation, arrests, and prosecution, I can assure you that the issue of congestion in our system will be a thing of the past.”

“We are aiming to reduce the 60 percent of awaiting trial inmates, and they will eventually find their way out of the correctional centers.”

Regarding efforts to reduce congestion, he noted, “As an institutional government, we are doing our best to reduce the numbers of people by the day. Unfortunately, the more we reduce, the more people are handed over to the centres.”

“You can imagine if you have 90,000 inmates and only manage to reduce less than 60 percent, say 50 out of 90, you would be left with 40 percent, and that 40,000 would be too small for our correctional centers.”

Chief Executive Officer of the Public Affairs Development Center, Jibril Shittu, also commented on the issue, emphasising the need for collaboration among various stakeholders to address the ineffective justice system and reduce the number of awaiting trial inmates.

He stressed on the importance of not just addressing trial detention but also looking at alternative measures, as some detainees have no reason to be held.

Shittu noted the efforts to address congestion initiatives at both federal and state levels to include administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee.

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