During a conference on ‘Decongestion and Reforms in Corrections Administration’ held in Abuja, Gimba Dumbulwa, the Assistant Controller General of Corrections in charge of custody, disclosed that a staggering 52,446 inmates are currently awaiting trials in correctional centers across Nigeria.
Dumbulwa emphasized that the congestion in prisons should not be attributed to the correctional service itself but rather to the slow dispensation of justice.
Dumbulwa expressed concern about the overstretched conditions in urban correctional centers, stressing that all of them are facing severe overcrowding due to the high number of inmates.
He stated, “What exacerbated all these is this issue of awaiting trial. Delay in the deliverance of justice to inmates is what brings about congestion.”
Out of the 52,446 awaiting trial inmates, Dumbulwa revealed that 70% have been in custody for more than one year without their cases being resolved. Shockingly, 2,000 inmates have spent over 10 years awaiting trial, while over 5,000 have been detained for over five years. Additionally, more than 10,000 inmates have been awaiting trial for more than a year.
Dumbulwa further explained, “The issue of congestion in our custodial centers has been a challenge because most of the correctional centers we have, especially in the urban centers, are overstretched. Overstretched in the sense that the normal capacity of each center has been overwhelmed, and that means that if a facility is to hold 20 inmates, it will hold more than that number, meaning that there is congestion and this is what happens in all our correctional centers.”
Uju Agomoh, the Executive Director of Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Welfare Action, emphasized the need to address the high number of awaiting trial inmates, as it hinders effective rehabilitation programs.
Agomoh stated, “Issues of having a high number of persons who are kept in detention is a big issue. We find a disproportionate number of persons who are kept in correctional centers staying there longer than they ought to stay without trial. We have a high number of persons who have not been convicted. That’s not right because once you have a high number of persons who are not convicted, it is difficult to plan any proper rehabilitation program or even plan their resettlement.”