The Minister of Interior inaugurated the committee in Abuja.
The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, on Friday inaugurated an Inter-ministerial Presidential Committee on Decongestion of Prisons nationwide.
At the inauguration in Abuja, Mr. Moro urged members of the committee to investigate the immediate and remote causes of prisons congestion. He said the committee should also take measures to decongest prisons nationwide.
The minister urged members of the committee to articulate the short, medium and long-term solutions to the problem of Awaiting Trial Persons (ATPs) facing the prisons. He said statistics from the Nigerian Prison Service (NPS) indicated that a total of 41,524 prisoners were currently in prisons with 29,372 ATPs.
M. Moro added that the figure accounted for 71 per cent of the inmates’ population, adding that “this is unacceptable’’.
He noted that the prison system in Nigeria had in the last 20 to 25 years, grappled with the dominance of ATPs.
“In 1985, the total number of prisoners in our prisons was 53,786 and out of this number, 21,515 were awaiting trial.
“By 1990, the figure changed slightly to 55, 331 inmates, comprising 27,665 ATPs.’’
The interior minister noted that by 2000, the total number of inmates in prisons was 43,312, with 26,485 of them were awaiting trial.
He, however, noted that the figures were without prejudice to steps taken by the Federal Government to ensure that criminal justice operations were consistent with the provisions of the constitution.
He said that the measures included special intervention programmes by the Federal Ministry of Justice and regular visits by the Legal Aid Council, among other groups.
Responding on behalf of the committee members, its Chairman, AIbrahim Nikau, pledged the committee’s commitment to working to decongest prisons nationwide.
Mr. Nikau, who is the Director of Planning Research and Statistics in the Ministry of Interior, thanked the minister for giving them the opportunity to contribute to the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.
Members of the committee were drawn from the Ministries of Interior, Justice and Police Affairs.
Others are representatives of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Office of the National Security Adviser, and the National Judicial Council.