More than 50 percent of Nigeria’s awaiting trial inmates are under the age of 30, a group, the Network of University Legal Aid Institutions, (ULAI) has said.
In Nigeria, awaiting trial inmates constitute over 70 percent of total prison inmates, the group said.
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.
NULAI, an association created to promote access to legal sector reforms and help undergraduate public interest lawyers cultivate the tenets of the profession, gave the figure at a two-day workshop intended to track the compliance of the Kuje prisons with the requirements of the Administration of Criminal Justice ACJA, in Abuja.
The workshop held on September 19 and 20.
Explaining the reason for the high population of youth in prisons, NULAI’s monitoring and evaluation officer, 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 anyone to support them, they are forced to remain there for a long time,” he said.
Ms. Kabir said NULAI was 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, 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; an assistant controller of prisons said.
In another opinion, 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-George, 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. The Nigerian police are under obligation to enforce the law, just as they are bound to obey the constitutions of the land. Therefore states that have not adopted the law are not exempted from the 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 the 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.