By Toyin Akinfolaju
A group operating as Network of University Legal Aid Institutions (NULAI) has raised the alarm that the population of Awaiting Trial Inmates (ATIs) in the various prison formations in the country is soaring largely because of their inability to raise money attached to their bail conditions.
The group which made the disclosure at a two-day workshop which held in Abuja on September 19 and 20 also revealed that over 50 per cent of ATIs in the various prison formations in the country are youths under the age of 30.
While speaking at the workshop, NULAI’s Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Ms Charissa Kabir, said young inmates without money or someone to support them are often forced to remain in prison for a long time.
“Once a person has been remanded in prison, bail is usually supposed to be based on certain amounts. Sometimes, N4 to N5, 000. But if these people don’t have that money, or any one to support them, they are forced to remain there for a long time.
Ms Kabir said NULAI is working to ensure that all kinds of data relating to prisoners across Nigeria are obtained by the institution and others who can contribute to change the plight of inmates in Nigerian prisons
Also speaking at the event, Head of the Information Technology department at the Nigeria Prisons Service, Mr Felix Agada said the service is putting together an information management system that has already enrolled over 11, 000 prisoners.
He added that the data is aimed at helping the prison service meet its constitutional responsibility of providing information about prisoners to regulatory authorities.
“We have already enrolled 11, 257 prisoners on the system so far. The data increases, because the enrolment is ongoing,” Mr Agada said.
Also contributing, NULAI’s founding Secretary Yemi Akinseye-George, said security operatives and other government officials have a constitutional duty to comply with the provisions of ACJA whether their states have adopted the Act, or not.
Mr Akinseye-Goerge a professor of public law said state governments have a duty to obey the provisions of the ACJA, with regards to two issues.
“The ACJA application is of nationwide application in respect of two issues: human right issues including the rights of detained people.
Also the ACJA is of nation-wide application in respect to law enforcement and the Nigerian police are under obligation to enforce the law, just as they are bound to obey the constitutions of the land.
He noted that the states that have not adopted the law are not exempted from operation of the law with respect to human rights issues and functions of law enforcement agencies.
Also speaking at the event, NULAI’s president, Ernest Ojukwu said the program is part of a two year reform program aimed at decongesting Kuje prisons.
He added that the two year program is being implemented by NULAI other organisations, namely Partners Global, Partners West Africa Nigeria New rule.
Nigeria currently has 75, 589 prisoners out of which 24, 450 are convicted while 51, 139 of them are awaiting trial. The figure includes 1, 509 women currently in detention