Â By Emeka Mamah
Â Kaduna â€” Minister of the Interior, Captain Emmanuel Iheanocho, said the congestion in the nationâ€™s prisons had become worrisome to the Federal Government.
He spoke in Kaduna yesterday when he paid a courtesy visit on Governor Namadi Sambo of Kaduna State at the Government House, after inspection of facilities at the Kaduna Prisons.
According to the minister, â€œthis is creating big problems for the prisons service in the first instance and for my ministry in general. It has actually formed the kernel of discussions we have been having within the ministry to look at how we can best utilise the budget that is available to us and one of the things we have observed is the possibility of finding a formula to reduce the population of the prisons.
â€œSo, you can imagine if we can find the right administrative mechanism to effect the release of those who are awaiting trial or indeed to send them to trial as quickly as possible but certainly to take them off the hands of the prisons system.
Â On the Kaduna prison
â€œThe Kaduna Prisons is a very old institution and one of the problems that we have is that we have a situation where facilities are built, population is growing and unfortunately the facilities are not built or developed in line with the growth in population and so that constitutes problems.
â€œOne of the problems we saw in Kaduna Prisons, we looked at those who are in that institution, we looked at the number of inmates that the place was designed to hold and we looked at the number of people who are there currently.
â€œWe also looked at the issue of the distribution in terms of the type of prisoners that are held there. Iâ€™ll like to say that the prison was actually built to hold about 570 inmates but as at today, it has over 800 inmates. So, it is actually over-flowing.
â€œWe are actually here to carry out a first hand assessment of what actually happened that day.
â€œThe idea being to see exactly how the people who are held in Kaduna Prisons, what conditions they are held under and to also see the condition under which the prisons officers are working and to look at the issues which gave rise to the attempted jail-break which happened on 20 April and to consider appropriate measures to ensure that this thing does not happen again.
Â We are better informed
â€œWe have been taken on a tour of the prisons, we have the opportunity to look at the facilities and we are pleased to say that as at now, we are better informed than we were a few days ago when that unfortunate incident happened. I will like to say that there are so many things we feel that we ought to do.
â€œI also like to say to you that if we look at it in terms of the inmates that are there, it would surprise you to know that the awaiting trial inmates actually out-number any other group and the population of the awaiting trial inmates is actually higher than the original designed capacity of that prison.
â€œOf the total population of about 812 inmates there, it would interest you to know that only about 71 of them are convicted inmates, regular convicts and the rest are prisoners of all kinds of categories.
Â To liaise with Justice Dept, others
â€œIt is not only the governors that we will be talking to. We will also be talking to the Justice department and the Justice minister and basically what we will be saying to him is to work through his ministry and to see how instructions can be passed on so that judges nationwide would in the execution of their businesses and their mandate see it fit to release people and to reduce the number of people they commit to prisons.
Â No plan to execute condemned criminals
â€œI like to use this opportunity to address the issue of the condemned prisoners that are held in our jails.
â€œThere has been a misconception in the press when we are talking about this issue. When we had a meeting the other time and subsequent to that meeting, people went on to say that they have instructed that they should kill all the prisoners in order to decongest the prisons.
â€œThis is not the case at all. It just happened that we needed to look at all administrative measures to reduce congestion in the prisons. At no time did the Acting President or anyone instruct that the prisons be decongested through a policy to execute condemned criminals.â€