A total of 54,171 inmates out of the 79,076 inmates in correctional centres nationwide as of July 31, are awaiting-trial persons.
Haliru Nababa, controller-general of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), gave the figure on Thursday in Abuja at an international conference on prisoners’ justice.
The conference was held to commemorate the 2023 International Prisoners Justice Day.
Nababa was represented at the conference by the deputy controller-general, finance and accounts department of the NCoS, Abdulai Magaji.
“As of July 31, no fewer than 54,171 inmates, representing 69 percent of the 79,076 inmates are awaiting-trial persons, while 24,905 inmates, representing 31 per cent are convicts.
“This remains the most daunting setback confronting the NCoS. One can only imagine the enormity of having to consistently produce inmates in court when required.
“This is coupled with the complications of managing such high number of pre-trial detainees amidst overcrowding,’’ he said.
He noted that the NCoS Act (2019) provided the service with a more robust framework to contribute significantly to prompt justice delivery in Nigeria.
He said the significance of the conference could not be overemphasised given the fact that justice is essentially the cornerstone of any social system.
“Justice is foundational to the sustenance and growth of any human society. It emphasises the rights and dignity of all persons, including those behind bars.
“This largely underpins the aptness of the theme for this conference: “Enhancing Global Response for Prisoners’ Justice,’’ he said.
He added that safe and humane custody in custodial centres is the high point of justice delivery for persons in custody and for society at large.
Magaji said improved logistics support for the NCoS had resulted in significant improvement in access to justice by awaiting-trial inmates.
He said also that the era of inmates missing their day in court due to lack of mobility had been mitigated to its barest minimum.
Earlier, Rev. Fr. Victor Nyoroh, the chief convener of the conference, said the theme was apt as the whole world was laying emphasis on the humane treatment of people in detention.
“We as a nation cannot be left behind, but must do all that is within our powers to ensure inmates get quick justice,’’ he said.
He stressed that August 10 was set aside for prisoners and their supporters to honour those who died unnatural deaths in prisons. The date was also set aside for those demanding changes to a criminal justice system that dehumanises and brutalises them, he said.
“This is the reason why stakeholders in the criminal justice system are gathered here to chart a way forward to enhance prisoners’ justice in spite of challenges facing this sector of the economy,’’ he said.
The Prisoners’ Justice Day is a solidarity movement that holds annually on August 10 globally. The movement began in Canada in 1974 in support of prisoners’ rights and to remember all the people who had died of unnatural deaths while in incarceration. NAN