THE Controller of Prisons, Enugu State Command, Mr. Ndubuisi Ogbodo has bemoaned the increasing number of inmates in the facility, due to a failure to classify the inmates, which had become the hallmark of Nigerian prisons.
Ogbodo noted that the number of inmates had more than tripled in the facility, which has a capacity of 648 inmates but now accommodates 2,024 inmates.
Speaking on Thursday in Enugu during the presentation of a report on Decriminalisation and Declassification of Petty Offences organized by the Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), Ogbodo said it that the congestion could be addressed with proper classification of petty offenses.
The Controller of Prisons said that the situation in prison facilities had made it necessary for the government to seek alternative means of addressing certain levels of misdemeanors in society.
According to him, “petty offenses should be classified and defaulters should be put under community service so that they are not mixed with hardened criminals in jail.”
The Deputy Director of PRAWA, Mrs Ogechu Ogu, felt that government was paying lip service to prisons reforms considered that prisons in the country were getting congested at a time the country was talking about reforms in the sector.
While calling on government to remove the punitive aspect of imprisonment and highlight the correctional aspect, she noted that criminalising petty offenses and meting out inhuman acts on offenders was against Article 45 (1b) of the African Charter, which Nigeria signed up for.
The deputy director called on “the state government to join in the campaign to remove the current punishments that come with petty offenses. Let us resort to non-custodial measures, if not, we will be creating more bitter persons that will make the society worst for us.”
The Executive Director of PRAWA, Mrs Uju Agomoh, said that the project, which is driven by the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA), was a milestone in criminal justice administration.
Agomoh said that the baseline report was for the participants and other collaborators to appreciate the situation that had necessitated the implementation of the project in the state.
She said, “we cannot continue to criminalise poverty in this country,” as she
hailed the state government for doing much in the justice sector, adding that the justice reform team in the state needed to take notice of the decriminalisation and declassification of petty offences project.
The Abia Coordinator of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mrs Uche Nwokocha, said it had become imperative to have sentencing and bail guidelines in the country as a situation where sentencing and bail conditions were at the discretion of the courts would make the process suspicious.