By ADELANI ADEPEGBA, TUNDE AJAJA, SOLOMON ODENIYI, GODFREY GEORGE and COLLINS SUNDAY
• Police order transfer of recaptured B’Haram inmate
There are no fewer than 3,145 inmates on death row in custodial centres across the country, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.
The spokesperson for the Nigerian Correctional Service, Umar Abubakar, in his response to an enquiry by one of our correspondents, said there were 3,084 males and 61 females on death row.
Some lawyers and human rights activists have consistently expressed concerns over the fate of the inmates, as most state governors refuse to sign the death warrant, leading to the rising number of inmates on death row. Some of them have suggested the conversion of the death sentence to life imprisonment, while some argued that if government wasn’t unwilling to sign the warrant, capital punishment should be expunged from the constitution and other relevant laws.
Meanwhile, despite complaints by several stakeholders, including lawyers and authorities of the NCoS, over the congestion of the facilities, the number of inmates in the custodial centres has continued to rise, fuelling its congestion and making the management of the centres difficult.
Figures on the website of the NCoS indicated that as of July 4, there were a total of 74,675 inmates in the country, comprising 52,714 awaiting trial and 21,961 convicted inmates. Also, the total number of male inmates was given as 73,139 while there were 1,536 female inmates.
‘Police recapture inmate’
The Nasarawa State Police Command on Saturday said it has arrested one Hassan Hassan identified as one of the Boko Haram suspects who escaped during the attack on the Kuje Medium Correctional Centre, Abuja.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, DSP Ramhan Nansel, who disclosed this in a statement in Lafia, said Hassan was rearrested in the Keffi Local Government Area of the state. He said the suspect would be transferred to a safer location while an intensive search for other fleeing inmates continued.
He said, “The fleeing Boko Haram suspect was recaptured by the eagle-eyed police operatives of the command in Keffi LGA. The Commissioner of Police, Adesina Soyemi, has ordered the transfer of the suspect to a safer location while intensive search for other escapees and the handover process of the arrested inmate progresses.
“CP Soyemi appreciates the efforts of the command’s police operatives for a job well done and assures members of the public of the command’s unrelenting efforts at making the public space safer for all.”
Some terrorists on Tuesday night attacked the Kuje custodial centre, freeing about 879 inmates, including 64 Boko Haram suspects. About 443 inmates have either returned to the facility or were recaptured. One operative of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and four inmates lost their lives to the attack.
‘No money stolen’
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Correctional Service has denied reports that money kept for inmates were stolen during the attack.
The NCoS in a statement on its website said, “We wish to inform the general public that the report in some quarters that the fleeing inmates from the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kuje, stole money (local and foreign currencies) belonging to their fellow inmates is not true.
“All inmates’ cash deposited in the custody of the authorities of the custodial centre is intact and safe as there is an existing instruction from the Controller General of Corrections that all officers superintending custodial centres must not keep huge sums in the facility.”
The statement noted that the Controller-General of Corrections, Haliru Nababa, was sparing no effort or resources in hunting down all the escapees.
Fani-Kayode ignorant – DHQ
The Defence Headquarters on Saturday took a swipe at a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, for accusing the military of complicity during the Kuje custodial centre and Abuja-Kaduna train attacks.
The Director, Defence Information, Major General Jimmy Akpor, in a statement on Saturday night described as laughable the allegations that the military withdrew its personnel from the Kuje Custodial Centre, saying Fani-Kayode was ignorant of whose responsibility it was to guard custodial centres.
The statement added, “He is not in any position to know whether the DSS notified the military of any attack or not. It may not be impossible that such a claim is part of a calculated attempt to cause division and rivalry amongst all government agencies that have been working collaboratively in addressing issues of insecurity in the country. It is sad that Mr Kayode is ignorant of whose responsibility it is to guard prison.”
He said Fani-Kayode’s allegation that the military did nothing on the Shiroro attack in Niger State was an attempt to smear the image of the military.
Speaking on the fate of inmates on death row, human rights lawyers, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) said the indefinite detention of inmates on death row in correctional facilities could not be justified under the law.
He said, “Our governors ought to be challenged to address prison congestion caused by their failure to ratify death warrants. It is not enough to withhold their approval. We should be honest enough to admit that the death penalty cannot be implemented. Therefore, it ought to go and be replaced by life imprisonment or other terms of imprisonment.
“The law has been amended to say, ‘If a prisoner on death roll exhausts his/her right of appeal and the death penalty is not executed within ten years, the judge has the same powers to commit the death sentence to life imprisonment.’”
Also reacting, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) noted that the governors should exercise their statutory responsibility to sign the warrant for those who have been convicted by the court and have no pending appeal.
He added, “The challenge is that most governors are reluctant to sign. The solution to this is that it would be necessary to consider death row inmates who have been there for a particular time to be committed to life imprisonment. It constitutes torture for one to be expecting to die every day and it lingers on for 10 or fifteen years.
“The Supreme Court has said if one is kept on death roll for too long, it constitutes a torture. The government should set a time limit so anyone waiting to be executed should be committed to life imprisonment or a lesser punishment instead of just crowding the prisons in that regard.”
On his part, a former Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Afam Osigwe (SAN), said, “When we think that the problem of overcrowded prisons is the fault of non-execution of inmates on death warrants, we miss the point. The government has not spent any real money in improving infrastructure in prisons.
“Most of the prisons are colonial ones. We have not added new facilities to them in order to bring them up to par with the modern day correctional services where people are kept under humane conditions and afforded the opportunities to sleep on a bed.”
He urged the courts to consider other non-confinement methods so the prisons would not be overflowing with inmates who should not be there in the first place.