Patrick Okoroafor

Many of Nigeria's prisons were built before 1950 and have been without renovation. Nigeria's prison conditions are unlivable. Some prisoners' health deteriorates to the point of death before they are even able to stand trial. Nigeria has about 784 prisoners on death row. However, accurate data concerning Nigeria's prisoners is difficult to gather considering the lack of computer databases and other technologies. The prisoners on death row are often kept in tiny, dark and dirty cells but are allowed to leave their cells during the day. The same is not true for the large warehouse-like prison cells that most of the other detainees are forced to live in, especially those awaiting trial. These rooms are often grossly overcrowded and much of the overcrowding is due to slow legal processes. Many prisoners do not even have beds to sleep on because of the over population of the prison facilities.

The lack of food and adequate sanitation are also major downfalls of the Nigerian prison system. While the government provides each prison with allotted funds based on population, the reported number of prisoners is never adequate and the funds are never enough. What little food each prisoner is provided with is often unhealthy or inedible. Sanitation is often fleeting as up to 100 prisoners can share one toilet. Furthermore, these toilets are often clogged or broken. These situations lead to unhealthy living conditions and undignified situations for the prisoners.

There is little room for rehabilitation in the prison system as any schooling or occupational opportunities for detainees have inadequate funding and resources. A system of bribes has developed in a lot of the prisons. Prison guards are paid little and inmates are in need of special privileges such as trips to the health clinic or visits from family members; therefore, a corrupt financial exchange between the two groups has inevitably begun.

Many of the prisoners enduring these conditions have been arrested or tried unfairly. Some prisoners have been arrested in place of a family member that authorities cannot locate while others are detained because of mental illness. Furthermore, some prisoners are innocent but were not able to hire legal counsel. In a lot of instances, individuals have been arbitrarily arrested and detained and therefore, their rights are revoked.

Some prisoners have awaited trial in detention for up to seven years and most have been presumed guilty before trial even occurs. Though prison guards are often aware of the international standards for the health and safety of prison conditions; none of these guidelines are followed. The Nigerian Constitution (section 35) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Nigeria is a signatory of, guarantee a speedy trial upon arrest. Given the lengthy pre-trial stay of inmates, this is obviously a guideline that is being ignored. Also, the presumed guilt of many of the inmates violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Nigerian Constitution which guarantees a presumption of innocence upon an individual's arrest.

Nigeria's current prison system and legal proceedings are corrupt and inhumane. Individuals are being arrested arbitrarily and prisoners are being denied basic human rights. It is not uncommon for Nigerian citizens to be convicted of a crime they did not commit, presumed guilty before they stand trial or be denied an appeal processes. In some Nigerian states, the police and legal systems have devolved into corrupt bribery motivated networks.

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