A total of 52,446 inmates are awaiting trials in correctional centers across the country, according to Gimba Dumbulwa, Assistant Controller General of Corrections in charge of custody.
Dumbulwa spoke in Abuja, on Wednesday, at a conference on ‘Decongestion and Reforms in Corrections Administration.’
Raising the alarm that all correctional centers in urban areas had been overstretched, he, however, stressed that the correctional service should not be blamed for the congestion of prisons across the country, adding that the slow dispensation of justice was responsible.
According to him, of the 52,446 inmates, 70 percent had spent more than one year in custody without trial.
He further revealed that 2,000 awaiting trial inmates had spent over 10 years, while over 5,000 had spent over five years, and more than 10,000 had spent more than one year in custody as awaiting trial inmates.
He said, “What exacerbated all these is this issue of awaiting trial. Delay in the deliverance of justice to inmates is what brings about congestion.
“The number of inmates that we have as of yesterday was 75,236 inmates nationwide. Out of this, you can imagine about 52,446, all are awaiting trial persons, and out of this still, more than 70 percent are awaiting trial who have overstayed more than one year in custody without getting their trial.
“2,000 stayed for more than 10 years, 5,000 of them for more than 5 years, and over 10,000 have overstayed for more than one year in custody without getting their trial.
“The issue of congestion in our custodial centers has been a challenge because most of the correctional centers we have, especially in the urban centers, are overstretched. Overstretched in the sense that the normal capacity of each center has been overwhelmed and that means that if a facility is to hold 20 inmates, it will hold more than that number, meaning that there is congestion and this is what happens in all our correctional centers.”
The Executive Director, Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action, Uju Agomoh, said no rehabilitation would be effectively planned with the high number of awaiting trial inmates in the country.
She said, “Issues of having a high number of persons who are kept in detention is a big issue. We find a disproportionate number of persons who are kept in correctional centers staying there longer than they ought to stay without trial.
“We have a high number of persons who have not been convicted. That’s not right because once you have had a high number of persons who are not convicted, it is difficult to plan any proper rehabilitation program or even plan their resettlement.”