Friday, June 16, 2023

Nigerians languishing in prison for petty crimes

The Hope Behind Bars Africa has said that most awaiting trail inmates in Nigeria have been languishing in our Custodial facilities for petty crimes like loitering or hawking.

The human rights and criminal justice reform organisation said apart from such petty and misdemeanours cases, one would also find civil cases like disagreements between business partners that was given criminal correlations.

Executive Director Hope Behind Bars Africa, Mrs. Funke Adeoye revealed that 40 percent of the cases so far handled by the organisation are simple cases.

Adeoye said Nigeria’s prison population was 76,982 on the 30th of May 2023, the number which is spread across 240 custodial facilities, has about 69.3% awaiting trail inmates.

She said this yesterday in Abuja, during the organisation five years impact report/strategic plan launch and press conference.

She said, “40 percent of the cases we have handled are actually simple cases. Cases like people arrested for hawking, loitering and a lot of cases that the sanctions is less than three years. We also find very frequently people arrested by the Special Anti-Robbery squad for armed robbery but when we go into the nitty-gritty of the case we find their is no evidence, most of the cases are stalling for years on ending because their is really no evidence against the person on trail.

“We also find a lot of Civil cases that have been given criminal correlations, for instance, someone having a contract with another person and he gets the police to pick up the person, the person gets arrested and remanded.

“In the past five years, our organisation has dedicated major aspects of its work to providing free legal services to indigent pre-trial detainees, engaging in welfare, empowerment, reformation and reintegration interventions.

“Nigeria’s prison population was 76,982, on 30 May 2023. This number spreads across 240 custodial facilities. Inmates awaiting trial constitute about 69.3 percent of the prison population. This is the highest percentage of awaiting-trial prisoners in Africa,

“Hope Behind Bars Africa, having recognised this challenge, decided to leverage its legal network to foster access to justice. We started out directly representing inmates for free here in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and expanded to Kano and Edo states. Currently, we have a network of lawyers in Kaduna, Niger, Nasarawa, Edo, Kano and FCT. We have represented 420 indigent pre-trial detainees so far. About 40 percent of this number were charged with simple offences, 20 percent for misdemeanours, and the rest for felonies, capital crimes and fundamental human rights actions.”

By Matthew Ogune, The Guardian

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