The Nigerian Prisons Service has said there are no fewer than 53,100 inmates in prisons across the country.
Out of this figure, 47,200 were standing trial as at June 20, 2012.
This showed an increase of 2,499 inmates within one month.
The Controller-General of the Nigerian Prisons Service, Mr. Zakari Ibrahim had on May 9 said 50,601 inmates were in the prisons, of which 36,934 were awaiting trial.
However, in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, the Deputy Controller of Prisons and spokesman for the service, Mr. Kayode Odeyemi, said efforts were being made to offload the inmates.
He decried the nation’s criminal justice system, which he said caused delays in justice dispensation and contributed to prisons congestion.
He also stated that the existing prisons were inadequate.
Odeyemi said, “Our criminal justice system is weak. The law enforcement agencies and the judiciary are slow in dispensing justice, making those awaiting trial increase and stay longer in the prisons.
“Also, the law enforcement agencies and the courts continue to find high profile cases such as armed robbery, drug trafficking, murder and homicide difficult to handle, as the principal witnesses often avoid appearance in court. This makes such cases suffer setback.”
He further said the largest prisons in the country such as Agodi (Oyo State), Ikoyi (Lagos), Onitsha (Anambra), Ogoja (Cross River), Port Harcourt (Rivers) and Kaduna (Kaduna) prisons were massively congested.
He said, “The 12 major prisons we have are congested; some of the structures were inherited from the colonial masters and were built in 1959. The Shehu Shagari administration planned to build 40 prisons over 30 years ago, only 27 have been constructed; others have been abandoned.
Odeyemi advised the government to introduce alternative punishment for suspects charged with pardonable offences, saying that the agency had recommended community service as punishment for those who committed minor offences to decongest the prisons.