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Overcrowding in Nigerian Prisons

Overcrowding in Nigerian Prisons. By Abdulrasaq kamaldeen (Ajetunmobi)

Overcrowding in Nigerian Prisons.
By Abdulrasaq kamaldeen (Ajetunmobi).

1.0 Introduction:
The population of inmates in Nigeria correctional service (NCS) rapidly increasing every day, hence the total number of the inmates are so many than the capacity of the prison. The status of Nigerian prison has become horrendous whereby fundamental human rights of the prisoners were no more recognize some of their enjoyable rights are section 35(1)(f) and section 35 (6) of 1999 CFRN as amended. The large number of awaiting trial inmates stay in prisons for years and convicted one in the prison without bail, this has become part of the characteristics of our criminal justice system.

2.0 Main Content:
In Nigeria correctional service (NCS), there are two inmates viz; awaiting trial and convicted one. The former means those who have been arrested and detained in prison until their case are in investigated and tried in Nigeria competent court, while the latter one means those who have been put on trial and found guilty in Nigeria competent Court.

Statistic shows that the most popular inmates in prison are awaiting trial, over 60 percent of awaiting trial are currently been in Nigeria prison without their jail term or even spent more than its jail term. It was reported in February 24, 2020 that in a crowded prison courtyard in Suleja, Nigeria “a woman spent three years in a prison for offence which carry two years imprisonment”.

Therefore, the large number of awaiting trials overstretched the capacity of prison, two inmates occupied the space which is to be occupied by one inmate. According to the NCS record 2021 revealed that the total number of inmates is 70, 056, out of them is 50,822 are awaiting trial which is equivalent to 73% while 19,234 are the convicted one equivalent as 27%. The World prison brief revealed that the total number of inmates in Nigerian prison in 2022 is 70,797.

It is totally blatant that the dreadful status of Nigeria are disturbing and equally affecting the fundamental human rights of the the prisoner (awaiting trial), because it was enumerate in section 35 (1)(f) of 1999 CFRN as amended which provides that:

“For the purpose of preventing the unlawful entry of any person into Nigeria or of effecting the expulsion, extradition or other lawful removal from Nigeria of any person or the taking of proceedings relating thereto:

Provided that a person who is charged with an offence and who has been detained in lawful custody awaiting trial shall not continue to be kept in such detention for a period longer than the maximum period of imprisonment prescribed for the offence.”

In the same vein, the general rule is that every person is presumed to be innocent until he found guilty (section 36 (5) of 1999 CFRN as amended).

Therefore, overcrowding in the custodial center have become great challenge due to congestion. This has budding many inmates to be an hardened criminal after their released. According to Justice Opeyemi Oke (rtd.) who said that;

“Today in Nigeria, we have seen countless cases where defendants are arrested for minor offences such as burglary and wandering; they are locked up in our prisons for the flimsiest reasons to join the teeming population awaiting trial inmates. They are in our prisons with hardened criminals and by the time they come out they have been initiated into a life of crime and are ready to spread terror, death, and destruction in their post-prison escapades.”

The status quo of Nigeria prison is also weaken the health of inmates, due to this overpopulation in Nigerian prison some were contacted with various disease and the sick one are not given proper care, the attention rendered to them by the prison official is too mere because the safety of the inmates’ health lies in their hands . By the virtue of section 8(1) of prison Act provide thus:
“In case of the serious illness of a prisoner confined in a prison in which there is not suitable accommodation for him, the Comptroller-General (or, in an emergency, the superintendent) may on the certificate of the medical officer by order under his hand di- rect the removal of the prisoner to a hospital specified in the order.”

3.0 Conclusion:
In the area of overpopulation in Nigerian prison is so annoying. The total number of Nigerian inmates rapidly increasing every day but the Nigerian prison capacity can not shroud the population. According to World prison brief data 2022 the total number of Nigerian inmates is 70,797 together with awaiting trial and remand prisoners. The awaiting trial are the populous inmates in Nigeria prison, in which they have spent more than the years prescribed for the offence committed.

Thanks for reading.
Abdulrasaq kamaldeen (Ajetunmobi).


This work is published under the free legal awareness project of Sabi Law Foundation ( funded by the law firm of Bezaleel Chambers International ( The writer was not paid or charged any publishing fee. You too can support the legal awareness projects and programs of Sabi Law Foundation by donating to us. Donate here and get our unique appreciation certificate or memento.


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