I’m studying for an interview, mainly GMAT and current affairs and I came across a list of our fundamental human rights as Nigerians. Most of us are familiar with this list but two things struck me about the right to personal liberty.
“Any person who is arrested or detained in accordance with subsection (1) (c) of this section shall be brought before a court of law within a reasonable time. And if he is not tried within a period of
(a) Two months from the date of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who is in custody or is not entitle to bail;
(b) Three months from the date of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who has been released on bail, he shall (without prejudice to any further proceeding that may be brought against him) be released either unconditionally or upon such condition as are reasonably necessary to ensure that he appear for trial later date.”
So why are our prisons bursting with inmates? Half of them yet to be convicted of the crimes they were detained for? Reports showed that out of the 49,000 inmates in various Nigerian prisons (and counting), 29,000 were awaiting trial while 856 were on death row. Is there a place worse than hell? The average Nigerian would agree there was! And they call it a Nigerian prison! Putting people away is supposed to give them an opportunity to think over their actions, show remorse, get reformed and an avenue for restitution but all this is lost if a petty thief is thrown in a cell with 13 other inmates ranging from mass murderers to armed robbers. Isn’t it ironic that high up on the list of prayer requests a Nigerian inmate prays is the prayer that perhaps the dreaded Boko Haram will break into their prisons and give them a chance to escape the hell they’ve been thrust into? Many die in prison before they can even be convicted for their crimes and a pitiful percentage are eventually found innocent. It is unjust to put a man or woman away for a crime they did not commit. It is even more unjust to throw all and sundry into the same facility for a bad apple ruins the whole barrel but hardly will you see a good apple making a bad one more edible. The petty thief is called a fool and taught the tricks of the trade by inmates more versed in crime and if he does survive the filth, mental slavery and inhumanity of a Nigerian prison, the fact that he has to join the teeming number of unemployed when he finally gets out of jail drives him to his old ways and this time he has more knowledge on the subject, more venom and a need to commit a crime so heinous that he either thwarts the efforts of our half-hearted police or he lands in prison and is thrown a welcome party for his more befitting crime by his old friends.
Why is our legal system so run down? Nigeria turns over about a thousand new lawyers every year, surely if these professionals are put into good use by the government and the judges and jury put their best efforts into their cases, we would be able to de-congest our prisons and why on earth isn’t there a minister for prison affairs? (I’m serious!)
Many Nigerians have an ‘I don’t care’ attitude where matters like this are concerned since the average Nigerian could never imagine him/herself going to prison but times are changing and evil abounds and if you don’t stand up for the faceless man who’s locked up away from life as we know it for a crime he knows nothing of or even give those that have erred a real chance at being reformed and not just caging them away to stew in their wrath and bitterness, it may just come back to bite us in the arse. Little wonder Boko Haram is breaking people out of jail. Prison has become a recruitment centre and we wonder why some Nigerians have become suicide bombers. If you can survive a Nigerian prison then being a suicide bomber at the price of living free and in splendour for a short while is a chance a lot of them are willing to take.
Has anyone wondered about the way our politicians get themselves out of jail even when convicted? Even when they do stay, they live in private quarters far from the realities of the average prison and fall ill every two minutes demanding for a high-rate doctor and medical care. Yes these are fundamental human rights but should they be only bestowed on men ‘mouthed’ enough to afford the best lawyers and preferential treatment? If a man steals one hundred naira, why should he be treated worse than a man who stole one billion naira?
In secondary school, a friend’s father died in prison. He was a politician and we all mourned with her and now I cannot but imagine the people who spend countless nights begging God to vindicate them as they rot in jail. Let’s fight this evil before one of our own is affected. I know bankers who have been thrown into jail especially tellers for stealing huge sums of money, some were framed but the truth is even though no one ever prays to be in a Nigerian prison, it does happen to some.
When I was younger, I imagined prison as a place where one had to wear black and white striped or orange jumpsuits and die of boredom in a cell with one window and one bed and one toilet and eat food at a canteen with many angry faced inmates. Prison was a place where people could get put on parole and make pleas and even learn a skill but most importantly get reformed. I’m sure if Nigerian prisons could be a fifth of my fantasy, I wouldn’t need to write this. Maybe the judge should just say; “Mr X, I sentence you to 5 years in prison where you will be anally raped every night, slapped and beaten, have to be someone’s dog and sleep where you shit and where you’ll be starved and deprived medical care till you die!” Too much story, the death sentence would be faster!
Women have given birth in prison impregnated by prison wardens and workers and this is the least of the evils our delicate ears are spared from. Let’s not pretend, I object to this inhumanity, these people need help. As part of our rights, Nigerians are entitled to SPECIAL JURISDICTION OF HIGH COURT AND LEGAL AID! “Any person who alleges that any of the provision of this chapter has been, is being or likely to be contravened in any state in relation to him may apply to high court in that state for redress.” So you do have a right to sue if your fundamental rights are trampled on by any individual or the state.
People should be punished according to their crimes. Community service should be seriously looked into, I know LAWMA could use some help and Lagos would be cleaner for it!
Have a great day peeps and remember crime does not pay!!! (yahoo boys take note)