The Nigerian Prison Service’ (NPS), specialised production of crops will allow prison inmates to feed themselves.
Three farm centres have been set aside for the 2017 pilot projects, which are aimed at reducing the federal government’s burden in terms of feeding inmates. Presently, the federal government feeds each of the 68,110-prison inmates with N450 per day, totaling N11,187,067,500 per year.
The NPS on its part has procured 22 tractors and other farm implements to be distributed to its farm centres and agricultural projects. This is done in a bid to go into mechanised farming, in which all inmates are only required to load the produce for transportation.
Legal framework for prisons
A multiple of conventions, instruments and laws underpin the governance of prisons and treatment of prison inmates worldwide. The prisons in Nigeria are run solely by the federal government. This means that federal laws govern prisons in the country.
The Prison Regulation was first published in 1917 to prescribe admission, custody, treatment and classification procedures as well as stating dieting and clothing regimes for the prisons. It classified the prison system, distinguishing between ‘ awaiting trial’ and convicted inmates and stipulating the convict category to be found in each type of prison.
The Controller-General of Prisons pursuant to the powers conferred on him by Section 16 (1) (a) and (b) of the Prison Act. Cap. P29, Laws of the Federation 2004 issued the Nigerian Prisons Standing Order.
This was followed by the Nigerian Prisons Service Standing Orders (Revised Edition), 2011 which deals with laws, rules and regulations governing the NPS, which apply to his treatment and his rights and obligations, access to the outside world, the families, and legal representations.
Some of the prison farms are located in Kaduna, Sokoto, Enugu, Plateau, Rivers and Cross River states. They specialize in the production of millet, rice, palm oil, cassava and livestock.
The high prison walls, of course do not allow outsiders to see what goes on in the prison. Around all prison yards in Nigeria they have vegetable gardens, fish farms and poultry farms. Though only about 20% of the land is fully utilised.
Francis Enobore, spokesperson of the Nigeria Prisons Service during a tour said the prisons have skill acquisition centres for the inmates – which comprise vocations such as barbing, shoe-making, iron work, tailoring, and others.
“We use some of the inmates who have acquired the skill outside,” he said.
He said the aim of the guided tour, which was organized by the NPS, Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) and the UK government was to bridge the gap between the prison and the public.
He said the prison authorities have a sharing formula with the inmates at the vocational centers, which include saving a percentage for them till they are discharged, maintaining the centers, and remitting to the treasury.
An inmate at the barbing section said a haircut costs N50 and they receive about four customers daily; another at the shoe-making section said some of their sandals cost between N2, 200 and N3, 500; while at the laundry, customers are charged between N50 and N100 per cloth but warders are allowed to pay “anything.”
“Almost all of them are awaiting trial. They make clothes, even uniforms for the prison (officials), Civil Defense and others,” he said. At the computer-training center where there are one dozen laptops, the inmates worked on three desktops.
At the educational training center, 10 others paid a rapt attention to their colleague who taught them ‘Multiplication of Decimal’ on a white board. “We are just trying to manage the space with the accommodation we have,” Mr. Francis Enobore said of the dearth of facilities. At the female prison, the inmates are taught how to make, wash and set hairs at the salon.
There are 16 inmates studying for their first degrees and two for postgraduate diploma at the National Open University of Nigeria. He spoke further, that 50 inmates from the Abeokuta Prison have graduated in their NCE program, adding that another 50 inmates were matriculated on same day.
The university authorities waive their tuition fees. Unlike in the male prison, experienced female warders are assigned to teach the inmates. Francis Enobore, said that there is a lot of misinformation out there, which can give room for speculation.
He said that the primary objective of vocational training is to take in the inmate and identify the cause of their rebellion against the society before treatment measures are administered.
Mr. Enobore said the practice of paying bail fees for prison inmates who could not afford them does not help both the beneficiaries and the society. “When people come to the prison to pay the fines for these inmates, they are not really helping them, because the inmate is probably one or two months into learning a skill in the prison and you come and make him go,” Mr. Enobore said.
“And you are not taking him to your house. So what happens is that within a short while, he commits another crime and returns to the prison.
“If you are so concerned about arresting the prison situation, you can go to a skill acquisition center in the prison, buy an equipment and engrave the inmate’s name on it. And let him communicate to you if he’s denied access to it.
“As soon as he leaves, he goes away with his equipment and continues his craft,” he said.
At the 1,700 capacity Kirikiri Medium Prison, there are 3,051 inmates, 2,627 of who are awaiting trial persons. The Kirikiri Female Prisons with a capacity of 211 has 273 inmates and 208 among them are awaiting trial.
There are four pregnant inmates and 12 babies. It was gathered that they bring their pregnancies from outside. “All inmates undergo series of tests including pregnancy tests before they are brought here.
“We take care of the babies, when they get to 18 months, we interview their mothers and ask them to invite their relatives to come take them. Otherwise, they are taken to welfare,” a Prison official said.
Barrister Yinka Lawal, PRAWA’s Executive Director, said many Nigerian prisons are overstretched. “We have so many people in prison that ought not to be there,” he said.
“About three years ago, through our intervention, we released one of the longest serving awaiting trial inmates – 17 years – from Enugu Prisons.