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HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN THE NIGERIAN PRISON SYSTEM: A CASE STUDY OF NIGER STATE PRISON

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HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN THE NIGERIAN PRISON SYSTEM: A CASE STUDY OF NIGER STATE PRISON

 

ABSTRACT

Prisoners in Nigeria are often perceived and categorized as “outcast”. The belief of many is that, once you are a prisoner, you are automatically a “bad egg” inthesociety.Thereisanillconceived notion that prison inmates have no rights within the general population. The importance of this research work cannot be over emphasised as it seeks to enlighten the reader of the fact that though there are rights available and at the disposal of prisoners under the Nigerian laws, majority of prisoners, due to one cog or another are unable to have access to and make adequate use of those rights; they are even in most cases unaware of the existence of such rights. This research work shows that there are other abuses going on in our prisons apart from the congestion problem. Such relates to feeding, clothing, bedding, access to health facilities, communication etc. These rights as well as those guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 are very much alive and available to prisoners in Nigeria. The rights may be limited; but prisoners do have a degree of human and civil rights also guaranteed by international conventions and the UN Declarations. Most especially the Standard Minimum Rules for the protection of prisoners. Therefore, prisoners cannot and should not be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment; they are to have full access to due process and equal protection and should not be discriminated against. So this research work, with particular reference to Niger State, to a great extent has been able to: (i) ascertain the extent of prisoners’ rights abuses and its effects on their lives in prisons in Niger State; (ii) determine the factors responsible for the abuses; (iii) examine the measures that need to be taken to incisively and concisely address all problems of prisoners rights abuses. All these have been achieved through thorough research and findings and accordingly, adequate recommendations have been proffered. The doctrinal and empirical methods of research i.e. books, journals and articles as well as administering of questionnaires was adopted to achieve the desired goal of addressing the pervasive violations of prisoners’ rights.

 

CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

1.1     BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

The Prison system is one of the key components of Criminal Justice Administration as it the correctional institution where prisoners and convicts are kept after undergoing the processes of police investigation and trial by a court of law. The prison is responsible for the custody of the convicts and other inmates. The prison system entails putting in place measures to prevent escapes, such as erecting high walls or chain-link fence, placing armed guards, constant checks of cells, providing system of passes for movements with the prison, constant surveillance, and other measures to prevent escapes, riots, and so on1. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) (as amended) vests in the Federal Government the control and administration of prisons2. This power is generally exercisable by statutory instrument of the National Assembly. However, the Prisons Act and subsidiary legislations vests in the President of Nigeria power over the control, administration, security and welfare of prisoners. Section 15 (a) of the Prisons Act provides that the President may wave regulations with respect to the organization and administration of prison. However, the Nigerian Prisons Legislation and Practice are generally perceived to be „anti – prisoner‟. They tend to completely take away all rights and self respect of prisoners. This is unlike the general prison practice and legislation in the advanced Nations. For instance in the United Kingdom, Rule 10 of the Prison Rules 1 Dambazau, A.B (2007). Criminology and Criminal Jusitice. Spectrum Books Ltd, Ibadan, p.197.

2 Item No.48 of The Exclusive Legislative List of the Second Schedule to the Constitution; A – G., Abia State V. A.G – Federation, (2002) 6 NWLR p.763, p.264, at pp.385 – 386. 1 (1999) S1 1999/78 provides that every prisoner must be provided as soon as possible after his inception into prison and in any case within 24 hours, with information in writing about those provisions of the Prison Rules and other matters which are necessary for him/her to know, including his earnings, privileges and the proper method of making requests and complaints. This is not so under the Nigerian Prison Legislation. There is an ill-conceived notion that prison inmates have no rights within the general population. Their rights may be limited; but they have a degree of human and civil rights that is guar.

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