Tony John, Port Harcourt
The Rivers State Government and the Federal Government have agreed to work towards the decongestion of the Port Harcourt Federal Prisons.
The two parties reached the decision, on Monday, after a courtesy visit to Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, at the Government House, Port Harcourt, by the Stakeholders’ Committee on the Decongestion of Prisons led by the Attorney General of the Federation, Abukakar Malami and the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Abuja, Justice Ishaq Bello.
Governor Wike said that Rivers State Government has already started the process of decongesting the Port Harcourt Prison, through the State Chief Judge, who released some inmates, last year.
The governor added that his office, based on the advice of the Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy, released some prisoners as well.
Governor Wike said, “The congestion of the Port Harcourt Federal Prison is a major concern. That is why the Rivers State Government has commenced the process of decongesting the prison.
“Governance must be governance at all times. Therefore, we shall support the efforts of the Committee to decongest the prison”.
The governor said that the committee would succeed in the delicate assignment, when it develops a system that would protect all the officials who would work directly in the process of prison congestion.
Governor Wike also pointed out that the closure of the courts in the State between 2013 and 2015, negatively affected the criminal justice system of the state. Hence, the prison situation.
Earlier, Malami said that the Stakeholders’ Committee on the Decongestion of Prisons was established following a directive of President Muhammadu Buhari to work with the Stakeholders and agencies of the criminal justice system to de-congest the prisons.
He said that the Committee was working on the de-congestion of the nation’s prisons without compromising national security.
The Attorney-General of the Federation noted that the committee would find immediate solutions to cases that require payment of fines, while working with other stakeholders for long term solutions.
The Nation’s Chief Law Officer added that 126, 500 inmates have already been released through the payment of fines for minor offences.
Malami noted that most of the inmates in Nigerian prisons were between 18 years and 25 years, with most of them involved in drugs. He regretted that over 70 percent of the inmates were on awaiting trial for minor offences such as stealing of sugar cane and tubers of yams.
Also speaking, Chairman of the Stakeholders’ Committee on the Decongestion of Prisons and Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, Justice Bello, said that the condition of Nigerian prisons was dehumanizing. He said the prisons terrorises the psyche of inmates.
He said the prisons were so congested that inmates could not find spaces to sleep or even sit properly.