By Martins Odeh
The Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS), was established in 1972 by Decree No.9,
which spelt out the mandate of the Service.
It was established after the abolition of Native Authority Prisons in 1968,
which unified the earlier separate operations of the prisons in southern and
northern parts of the country.
Ever since the unification, the Nigerian public had for decades called for
reform of the prisons service, owing to obvious challenges, especially that of
ineffectiveness in service delivery.
At last, this call was eventually heeded to on Aug.14, as President
Muhammadu Buhari gave assent to the bill that altered the configuration of
the country’s prisons’ structure.
The first striking difference in the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, is the
change in name from Nigerian Prisons Service to Nigerian Correctional
This new enactment lays emphasis on reformation of prison inmates than the
repressive and punishment outlook associated with NPS.
The bill was first presented in the Senate in January 2008 by Sen.Victor
Ndoma-Egba, in the Sixth National Assembly.
Ndoma-Egba, said review of the Act was necessary to put in place a
framework for the rehabilitation and transformation of inmates and address
the issue of inadequate funding of prisons.
The president had in April refused to assent to the bill after it was passed by
lawmakers and sent to him, 11 years after it was first presented.
The Act made provisions for custodial service and non-custodial service.
The custodial service, will among other things, take control of persons legally
interned, in safe, secure and humane conditions and provide support to
facilitate the speedy disposal of cases of persons awaiting trial.
Section 12 (2) (c) provides that where an inmate sentenced to death has
exhausted all legal procedures for appeal and a period of 10 years has elapsed
without execution of the sentence, the chief judge may commute the
sentence of death to life imprisonment.
The non-custodial service will be responsible for the administration of
non-custodial measures like community service, probation, parole,
restorative justice measures and such other measures as a court of competent
jurisdiction may order.
Speaking on the development, Sen. Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the
President on National Assembly Matters, said the new law laid good
foundation for modern prison operations in the country.
He also explained that the Act also provided that the service retained a
percentage of what they generated in addition to budgetary provision to work
with, in order to service delivery.
“The question of overcrowding has been addressed by the Act. The
correctional service officer is to notify the authorities in the state or the
Federal Capital Territory, the Attorney General, the Chief Judge, when a facility
attains its full capacity.
“The essence of the law is to keep the intimates in human conditions within
the carrying capacity of the prisons,” Ita-Enang said.
Stakeholders attest to the neglect of the prisons, because of the erroneous
impression that the prison is a place for hardened criminals that ought to be
subjected to degrading conditions.
According to a recent report by Amnesty International, more than three of
every five prison inmates in Nigeria have not been convicted of any offence.
A cross section of people in separate interviews with News Agency of Nigeria
(NAN), however, expressed mixed feelings in the authorities’ readiness to
implement the new law to bring about the long awaited fundamental reforms
of the sector.
Mr Lemmy Ughegbe, founder, Make A Difference (MAD), a
non-governmental organisation, said the new law could end the decades of
ugly trends associated with the old prison management.
Ughegbe explained that the Federal Government must immediately take the
required steps to ensure a systemic compliance to reflect the new prison
He said years of infrastructure deficit were the bane of proper management of
the sector, adding that the poor infrastructure had always compounded the
wellbeing of inmates.
“The old order must give way fast as it reminiscences life in dungeon, where
all forms of dehumanising activities are allowed.
“We want to see a prison that can convert inmates to better citizens whose
skills and creativity could be mainstreamed into the country’s economy to
grow our GDP.
“It should no longer be seen as a place of death, horror and despair, where
diseases, abuses and wickedness reign,’’ he said.
Mr Jeff Ogbe, a human right lawyer, said the operations of the sector must be
in tune with the dictates of the new enactment.
Ogbe said the old decayed prisons across the country must give way to new
ultra- modern correctional centers, in line with the provisions of the new
He explained that the authorities should replicate prison designs found in
developed countries, adding that nothing stopped the government from
making the institution a place to widen the development of human capital.
“The facilities can take the shape of the country’s first and genuine National
Sports Academy and Skill Acquisition Centre.
“This will help to grow more weightlifters, wrestlers, combat-fighters,
designers, plumbers, electricians and other middle cadre human capital for
“The goods and services and even skills from these centres can be exported to
the equalisation of the country’s balance of trade like it is done elsewhere,’’
Mr Ja’faru Ahmed, the Controller-General, Nigerian Prisons Service, had at a
retreat organised by the Senate Committee on Interior in Lagos on July 20,
2018, corroborated Ogbe’s submission.
Ahmed had described the prison as reflection of negligence and disregard to
the welfare of the prisoners.
Ahmed, however, described the new law as an end of an old era, adding that
the enactment had re-positioned the service to perform its critical role in the
justice system chain.
Mr Francis Enobore, the Public Relations Officer of the NPS, while reacting to
the coming into force of the new Act, said it provided the legal framework to
transform inmates into better and useful citizens.
Enobore explained that the law which was targeted at complete reformation
of the service, remained an unprecedented gift to the country by the
“We are happy that the law makes for significant intervention in moulding the
characters of prisoners to be responsible citizens and contribute to the
country’s socio-economic development,’’ he said.
Elder Pius Akwete, a retired civil servant, said the law was long expected,
adding that the authorities must ensure the provisions were implemented.
Akwete said the current state of prisons in the country left much to be
desired, adding that the inmates were living in hell.
“The prisons built by the colonial administration are still standing. They are
old and antiquated and this gives room for jail breaks.
“I just hope the reform will commence in earnest with the construction of
befitting correctional centres,’’he said.
Mr Titus Ojile, an ex-prison staff aligned himself with views expressed by
others, as according to him, it guarantees the welfare of correctional officers
Ojile explained that the enactment was an open demonstration of Buhari’s
commitment to the rule of law and human rights of citizens.
“It is important to state that this president has undoubtedly earned for
himself another feather as his style of leadership remains congruent with
“Buhari has first earned for himself both local and global accolades as he
continues to fight against corruption. I think we must appreciate these efforts
geared toward making the country work again,’’ he said.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that Nigeria has low
incarceration rate, with a prison population of 62,260, less than one per cent
of the total population.
According to the data, compared to countries with populations between 100
and 350 million, Nigeria has the lowest prison population rate per 100,000
Stakeholders want the government to make adequate provision for upgrade of
infrastructure at the correctional centres, to make them conducive for
reformation of character, as envisaged by the new enactment.