The leader of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos-APC), on Wednesday, said a Bill proposing community service as an alternative to prison term for miscellaneous offenders in the country was underway.
Gbajabiamila said in Abuja that when presented and passed, the emerging law would check congestion prisons across the country.
He expressed concern over the state of prisons in the country, saying that no fewer than 100 inmates currently slept in one prison cell. He noted that this could breed more criminals in the society.
According to him, a congested prison has attendant consequences apart from the epidemic that may ensue.
“This is apart from the people who may be in there for a period of two months to six months because the alternative was to pay a fine of N20, 000 which they didn’t have.
“They are not criminals but petty offenders involved in misdemeanours like wondering or trading illegally on the streets or hawking,’’ the lawmaker said.
He said that the situation in the prisons had the potential of producing more criminals.
According to him, by the time the inmates come out, they are hardened.
“So, the issue is for us to come up with a bill for community services for people like that rather than making prison term an alternative. All over the world, they don’t do that for such offences.
“I am actually happy that the community service Bill is in the process and will be coming for a second reading very soon so that we can decongest our prisons,’’ Gbajabiamila said.
He explained that the bill would seek the removal of prison issues from the jurisdiction of the Federal Government to the states for improved services.
“The ultimate goal for me is for us to remove the issue of prison from the exclusive list and send it down to the states.
“If each state has about three or five prisons we are talking about over 100 prisons across the country and that will help to reduce congestion.
“It should be a state matter because these people are tried for state offences mostly,’’ Gbajabiamila said.