By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, on Wednesday, urged the Federal Government to review the pre-trial detention system, saying available evidence showed excessive use and abuse of the practice in Nigeria.
The Commission maintained that the system negates the human rights safeguard of the right to personal liberty and constitutional provision of presumption of innocence of all accused persons until proven guilty.
The Acting Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Mrs. Oti Ovrawah decried that though some laws in Nigeria permitted the practice of pre-trial detention in certain circumstances, she said the system had been grossly abused by law enforcement agencies.
Mrs. Ovrawah who spoke on a day the rights body commemorated the 2018 African Pre-trial Detention Day, said: “It has also been shown that the arbitrary use of the practice is a major cause of prison congestion- which exposes detainees to high risk of various human rights violations.
“This practice has also been shown to result in violation of international norms, the rule of law and waste of public funds.
“The human and socio-economic toll of pre-trial detention on human development is huge and the need to tackle these challenges needs not be overemphasized.
“Thus, the advocacy to reduce the use of the practice considerably has been in the front burner of discussions amongst criminal justice institutions and this has resulted in Law Reforms and Institutional Strategies aimed at addressing the grave concern.
“The human rights implications of abuse of pre-trial detention raise serious concerns to the Commission as well as other stakeholders.
“As part of institutional efforts aimed at addressing the challenges thrown up by the practice, the Commission conducts regular audit of prisons from where cases of pre-trial detention and other issues of human rights violations are gathered and acted on”, Ovrawah added.