Cross River State controller of the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS) Mr. Imaikop Ndaekong has said that a total of 854 out of 1,160 inmates were on awaiting trial while 254 were convicted with 46 condemned.
Speaking during a meeting with the governor of Cross River State, Prof. Ben Ayade in Calabar, Ndaekong said out the number, 32.7 percent were charged for murder, 27.7 per cent for armed robbery, 8.9 per cent for ordinary robbery, five per cent for unlawful possession of firearms, 20.2 percent for ordinary stealing, 4.3 per cent for assault and 1.2 per cent for some other offences.
The controller who commended the state government’s support for the NPS also stated that the prison had been over-stretched.
“Calabar prison…has up to 842 inmates as against capacity of 450 and covers 7 local government areas. The poor scenario is applicable to all the prisons in Cross River State where each of the prisons covers at least 2 to 3 local government areas a day,” he said.
He sought the state’s support in the provision of ambulances, operational vehicles, inclusion in the state security council and tools to teach inmates basic skills to fulfill its mandate.
In his response, Ayade called for an overhaul of the Nigerian Prison System to position it as a government parastatal that drives reformation and productivity.
He said Nigeria should borrow a leaf from the prison system of the United States which, according to him, drives productivity.
“There is an urgent need for the reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration processes. Unfortunately, these processes which are natural sociological pathway towards reformation now come with the challenge of funding.
“In America, prison service is the hottest business. Any remote part of America that they want development to move in, they set up a prison,” he said.
Ayade who likened the American system to a hotel business continued: “As you send a prisoner to the prison, government pays his monthly bed rate, his hotel bill his feeding and his toiletries. So there is a fixed amount being paid by the US government to each prison. Each prisoner has a fee.
“And so, everybody becomes desperate to set up a prison yard because it is on the basis of that prisoner that there is demand for food, demand for toiletries, productivity will go up, consumption will go up and employment will rise and so wherever there is unemployment in the US, any village setting that has unemployment, they introduce prison systems.
“It is our dream of what the prison should be. It should really be a reformation center; a place where people go for reformation and really get reintegrated properly.”
The governor averred that the system afforded the inmates the opportunity to learn a trade and hoped that it will be replicated in Nigeria.
Ayade, who described the statistics of prisons inmates in the state as presented by the controller as “scary and worrisome,” said the state will review all awaiting trial cases with a view to exercising the powers of prerogative of mercy on the innocent.