Nigeria’s Prisons: Reformation or Hardening Centres?

A lot has been said and written about the condition of prisons in the country. The common denominator is the tough and unbearable conditions encountered by those unlucky enough to be there. For those not used to living like beasts, going there can easily make them lose their sanity. And this is not to talk about the criminal elements they mix up with there, an encounter that in some cases, creates a negative on the victims.

Traders from the Agboedo Auto Spare Parts Dealers Association, Nnewi, arrested on November 23, and quizzed by the police over the invasion by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, recently recounted their experiences during their brief incarceration in the cell of the Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS, Awkuzu.

The 33 traders, who were released unconditionally on Saturday, December 1, described the Nigerian police cell as a hell fire.

One of them described it thus, ‘We had a very horrifying experience in the Awkuzu SARS cell. In the first place, we were up to 150 inmates in one small cell. We took our bath there, defecated there and also urinated in a bucket inside the same cell.

‘One hardly breathed well in the cell because of bad odour. An average Nigerian police cell is a hell fire. There, we saw hundreds of youths within their productive ages wasting and languishing there. Most of them are there but will hardly tell what their offences are, or why they are still there.

‘From what I witnessed, a youth who spends longer time there for whatever offence, will even come out a more corrupt person because human beings are treated like animals there.’

The above experience summarizes what transpires in the various prisons in Nigeria. Although the traders were detained in a police cell, their experience there was no different from what is experienced in the various prisons.

Ordinarily, the prisons are supposed to be corrective centres from where inmates ought to leave and become better persons. But when such prisons are made unlivable due to gross neglect by the government, the inmates go through mental and physical torture which often leaves them dehumanized.

This should not be so. We call on the Federal Government who control prisons to carry out real prison reforms that will take care of all unsavory stories emanating from there. The idea of making human beings live like animals is highly reprehensible and should never be allowed to continue.

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