OPENING REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, HIS EXCELLENCY DR. ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, CON, MBBS, ON THE OCCASION OF A ONE DAY PUBLIC HEARING BY THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON INTERIOR ON FOUR PRISON REFORM BILLS ON THURSDAY FEBRUARY 15TH, 2018.
1. It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this Public Hearing organized by The Senate Committee on Interior on four Bills which are of significant importance to the reformation of our Prison services nation wide. The Bills for consideration are:
i. AN ACT TO AMEND THE PRISONS ACT CAP P. 29 LAWS OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA, 2004 AND ENACT THE NIGERIAN PRISONS AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICE BILL TO MAKE PROVISIONS FOR THE ADMINISTRATION OF PRISONS IN NIGERIA AND OTHER RELATED MATTERS, 2017.
ii. AN ACT TO AMEND THE PRISONS ACT CAP P. 29 LAWS OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA, 2004 TO PROVIDE FOR A MOTHER AND BABY UNIT FOR THE CARE OF FEMALE PRISONERS WHO ARE NURSING MOTHERS AND THIER BABIES AND FOR RELATED MATTERS
iii. NIGERIAN PRISONS AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES ACT, 2016.
iv. CORRECTION, REFORMATION AND REINTERGRATING CENTRE (ESTABLISHMENT) BILL, 2018.
2. The dilapidated state of our prisons demonstrates a condition that cannot guarantee the reformation the prison process should have on inmates. The current state of disrepair decay of infrastructure, intra institutional culture and worrying outcomes we all witness today from our prison service have made reform of the institutional regulatory and legal structures imperative. Our prison sector remains a very key public institution for the rehabilitation and reformation of individuals in breach of our ethos and criminal justice process.
3. A recent survey by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics shows that there are about 70,000 in mates with over 80 percent awaiting trials. These figures I believe can be reduced drastically if all arms of government work together to bring a more efficient prison system in Nigeria. As legislators, we will continue to use the legislative process to make laws that will create a more organized public sector.
4. The prison system, which ideally should have been solely for correction of prison inmates through counselling, rehabilitations and reform of inmates, has today, become a breeding ground for hardened criminals who become worse than they were when they got into prison. This could be attributed to the over emphasis on punishment as against rehabilitation by the Act establishing the prison system.
5. The four Bills slated for consideration today was well received by the Senate when it was read a second time during plenary. I thank the Sponsors of this Bills, Senator Shaba Lafiagi, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Senator Babajide Omoworare and Senator Gershom Bassey. Their persuasive debate and the content of the Bills are the reasons why we are all here.
6. On Tuesday February 13th, 2018, the Senate Leadership received members of the National Committee on Prisons Reform. In our engagement, we agreed that there is a lot of work to be done and that it would need a lot of collaboration between the legislature and interested parties to ensure a comprehensive prisons reform in Nigeria.
7. Going forward from that meeting, I believe that we need a new approach to prisons decongestion. It is a national scandal that many prisons are overcrowded by up to 90 percent. Urgent new measures should be put in place to speedily decongest prisons not only in the interest of justice but to save cost for prisons maintenance and enhance the welfare of prisoners.
8. I commend the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Interior, Senator Andy Uba and other members of the Committee for ensuring that today’s Public Hearing takes place. The experience of the legislators in this committee gives all of us the right confidence that they will handle this task thoroughly.
9. I also thank the invited stakeholders and all who have come from far and near for this Public Hearing. It is a testament to how much we all need to improve the quality of the prison system in the country. Let me state it clearly that the Senate is yet to take a position on any of these Bills. Therefore, your contributions will go a long way in adding substance and acceptance to the content of the Bills.
10. I sincerely believe that with the collective wisdom of everyone seated here, we can deliver a legal framework that will finally make our prisons rehabilitation centers in tandem with the best global practices.
11. On this note, I hereby declare today’s Public Hearing open.
PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE