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Nigeria: Bill on Prison Reform passes second reading in Senate
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By Biodun Folarin
October 26, 2016 17:53:41pm GMT      |      Views: 59557
The National Assembly Complex, Abuja

WorldStage Newsonline-- A bill for a reform of the Nigerian prisons passed the second reading at the floor of the Nigerian Senate on Wednesday.

The Bill was sponsored by Sen. Oluremi Tinubu, Sen. Shaba Lafiagi (kwara North) and Sen. Babajide Omoworare ( Osun East).

Sen. Tinubu in her remark said the Bill sought to provide for mothers and baby unit, for the care of female prisoners who are nursing mothers.

“It is disheartened sighting infant leaving with their mother in the prison, were movement is restricted, freedom restrains and liberty impeded,” she said.

She said, this phenomenon had all round potential of impeding all round growth of the infant and may cause retaliation.

She said, the Bill should attempt to provide solutions for prison authority to provide special accommodation to meet prenatal and postnatal needs of pregnant women, designated structure as nursery to be staffed by qualified persons were infant can be placed when they are not in the care of their mothers.

She emphasized on the need to fight against stigmatization of babies born in prisons, saying, “the circumstances of their birth shall not be included in their certificate.

“Statistic given in March 2013, shows that they are 69 infants living with their mothers in Nigerian Prison across the nation.”

She said, though the solution to provide such facilities for special accommodations, crèches and breast feeding centres may have cost implication but it’s achievable.   

Sen. Shaba Lafiagi, representing Kwara North, said the bill was so imperative, that the prison institution remained an institution that had refused to fashion out with time, which was a colonial institution that refused to change.

“The change ever witness is with their uniform which was formerly white and now blue,” he said.

According to him, several government in the past had made attempts at reforming the prisons, but it never works.

He said in countriues such as South Africa, people went to prison before they rose to office, but in Nigeria people rose from office before they go to prison.

 “The prison needs a total reform and we must do everything possible to the realty of the twenty first century. The Nigerian prison simply upgrades prisoners from what brought them into the prison to what they were not before.

“The most important aspect of the bill is the correctness of it, even within the prisons, all the facilities from the cell, workshop remain as they were built during the colonial era.” 

In his ruling, ‎ the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, thanked the senators for showing humanity to our fellow citizens who were unfortunate to be where they were today, saying, restructuring of the prisons will entail total overhaul of the attendant problems of the prison system.

“I have had cause to visit the Robin Island Prison in South Africa where Nelson Mandela spent part of his life and that prison is no longer in use, but that prison is better than almost all the prisons we have in Nigeria today.”

He said to approach the challenge, the Senate Committee on Prison was trying to withdraw prison from the exclusive list to the concurrent list, so that the state can build prisons, because most of the people in prison were state offenders.   

‎‎Other lawmakers in their remarks said that the degrading conditions within prisons called for concerns and could best be described as an affront to civilised society.

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