From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
A renowned activist and a journalist, Mr Agba Jalingo, who was a victim of illegal detention, has noted that the Nigerian Correctional Services can only worsen the lifestyle of a suspect in detention than correct the person.
Jalingo who was detained in prison custody in Calabar, Cross River State, by the state Governor, narrating his experience said government should adopt other method of correcting offenders rather than torture and imprisonment.
He stressed that with his experience in detention, the purpose of the correctional Services which was to correct suspect has been jeopardized and made to be a place of torture and a home for only condemned criminals.
Speaking on a Theme: “Gaps in the Administration of Criminal Justice in Nigeria”, at a programme organised by the Port Harcourt chapter of the National Association of Seadogs, Jalingo noted that all Nigerian prisons have been overstretched its capacity, disclosing that there are still children suspects at the adult prison instead of being remanded in the Remand Home for children.
He condemned the way prisoners or detainees are being fed, stressing that “In the prison they fed us like dogs. Nigerian prisons facility is the worst in the world, the facilities are not fit for human beings, not even fit for animals. I learnt so much while in prison, our system cannot correct anybody.”
He commended NAS for engaging in advocacy programme intends to effect the transformation of the administration criminal justice system of the country.
Jalingo also recommended that the administration of criminal justice system can be better enhanced in Nigeria if “the country has effective and efficient data base of all its citizens, Crime investigation is properly carried out before arrest and detention, If all criminal prosecutions are handled by professional prosecutors and not necessarily police.
“That Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) advise on custody matters (awaiting trials) is given promptly attention, maintenance of efficient working synergy among the police, judiciary (DPP), court and Nigerian Correctional Services, Infrastructure upgrades and conducive working environment, adequate logistics especially to the NCoS to enhance prompt appearance of awaiting trial persons in court and adequate funding for proper reformation and rehabilitation of convicted inmates.”
Meanwhile, the Port Harcourt chapter President of NAS, Mr Ken Henshaw said the programme was organised in remembrance of the illegal arrest and unlawful detention of their members by the then military Sani Abacha’s government in Port Harcourt on February 18, 1997.
Henshaw recalled that during the detention of the Pirates at Bori Camp, Port Harcourt, no charges were filed against the victims, adding that till the filing of this report no justice have been done on the matter.
Speaking on the administration criminal justice system of the country, he said “Any kind of legal system that allows a person who is only accused of crime to spend 7-10 years in detention is a criminal system. The Nigerian judicial system is a criminal system.
“The person is accused of crime and our law says you are innocent until proven guilty by competent court. Our system allows you to go to jail, stay in jail for years and thereafter they found out you are not guilty of alleged crime.
“When you have a system where upto 70% of persons who are in the prison are awaiting trial, that is a criminal system. We have a system where government put people in detention and forget about them. We think, we need to start concrete actions in reforming that system.”
The NAS chapter President revealed that “After now, we shall be working on a propose bill which we shall present to the National Assembly to reform the entire system.”