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AN APPRAISAL OF THE RIGHT TO HUMAN DIGNITY AND THE STATE OF PRISONS IN NIGERIA


Project topic for Law department

CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background to the Study

There has been an outcry against torture and other forms of ill-treatment in the Nigerian prisons despite the fact that Section.34 of the Constitution [1] guarantees the Right to the Dignity of the Human Person of all Nigerians including prisoners. Also, according to Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights to which Nigeria is signatory:

Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitation and degrading to man, particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and treatment shall be prohibited.

Despite the above statutory provisions, in recent times, congestion of Nigerian prisons has assumed such a great magnitude that the very lifestyle, training, reformation, rehabilitation and re-integration of prisoners cannot be carried out efficiently. [2] Accurate statistics of inmates in Nigerian prisons is hard to come by, but according to the Nigerian Prison Service [3] the total number of awaiting trial persons are more than the convicted prisoners and thereby causing congestion.    

The very structure of the Nigerian prison is not in tune with the current architectural developments of the present time; Fawehinmi stated that the cell where I was kept is reputed to be the oldest in the history of the Nigerian prison system. It had been built in 1820. The ceiling is made [4] of mud and raffia, therefore undignifying for human habitation.Section.22 of the Prison Regulation [5] provides that each prisoner shall be provided with plain and wholesome food despite this provision, prisoners are not fed quality food.

According to the Nigerian Law Reform Commission in 1983 the state of the lavatories or latrines is quite deplorable, cracked [6] disused buckets were mostly used, many stinking excreta. In many cells buckets were without lids and placed side by side with containers for storing drinking water for use of the prisoners at night. Environmentally and hygienically, the state of the Nigerian prisons leaves much to be desired and falls short of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Protection of Prisoners and or the Prisons Regulations. [7]

Poor Medical care and hygiene characterizes the prison. Most prisons have no clinics and those with clinics no doctors. Even when the prisoner manages to procure his drugs or some are donated by charity donors, there are either stolen or resold to inmates [8] by the prison staff. The inhumanity of these prison staff is beyond comprehension.

Although the Nigerian Prison Regulation, Prison Standing Order and other relevant laws makes provision for the clothing of prisoners. In most prisons audited, the prisoners had no uniform; in some the convicts had uniforms while those awaiting trial were not given uniforms. The issue of bedding and access to clean water is also an affront to the human dignity of prisoners. [9] It is against this background that the work appraised the Right to Human Dignity and the state of prisons in Nigeria.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

The Right to Human Dignity is a right constitutionally guaranteed to all Nigerians despite the obvious fact that prisoners are entitled to this right, the state of prisons in Nigeria infringes on this right.

Prisons in Nigeria are characterized by various depilating conditions such as congestion which has caused the prison to overstretch its already scarce resources. Others such as lack of good and quality food, prisoners are not given beddings, congestion, their sanitary conditions are poor, lack of access to clean water, inadequate provision for clothing, poor healthcare, all of which dehumanize the prisoner.

There is a growing concern among the Nigerian public that prisons are fast losing its value to the fact that the condition of most administration of welfare services in Nigerian prisons are far from standard and therefore unfavourable for the realization of the purposes for which prisons are established. These inadequacies in the administration of welfare services in prison were the major problem that prompted this research. [10]

 This research is set out to determine whether the state of the Nigerian prison infringes on the prisoners Right to Human Dignity. Because of the state of the Nigerian prisons the following questions are germane:

  • Are they adequate infrastructure for prisoners that enhance their right to human dignity?
  • Is the welfare of prisoners is in consonance with the provisions of the law?
  • What are the challenges militating against the right to human dignity of prisoners?
  • Are they clear objectives as to the welfare of prisoners?
  • Is there discipline among inmates and staff?
  • Is there politicization of prison welfare programmes/packages leading other prisoners to question their worth as human beings?

1.3       Objective of the Study

The main objective of this work is to identify the loopholes present in the prison system as it relates to the right to human dignity of prisoners and the extent to which unfair treatments are meted out to them. Arising there from are the following objectives:

  • To examine if there is adequate infrastructure for prisoners that enhance their right to human dignity;
  • To determine if the welfare of prisoners are in consonance with the provisions of the law;
  • To examine the challenges militating against the right to human dignity.
  • To determine if there are clear objectives as to the management of welfare service of prisoners
  • To determine if prisoners are treated the same.
  • 1.4       Research Methodology
  • The research method used in this research work is the doctrinal method information is got through the use of both primary and secondary sources of information that exists in law – the materials used were textbooks, journals, internet materials and a host of other primary and secondary sources. This research method was chosen because it is cost effective with reliable research materials and it is less time consuming as compared with the non-doctrinal method which involves field work and consumes too much time. The research method also constitutes the use of foreign materials which shed more light to the right of human dignity and the state of prisons in Nigeria.
  • Scope of the Study
  • The basic issues discussed in this work includes the prison system, treatment the inmates and the right to the dignity of the human person. The premise of this study is the entire prison system in Nigeria, thus this research examines all the applicable laws ranging from the African Charter, the Nigerian Constitution and Legislative enactment as enshrined in the laws of the federation of Nigeria and other relevant laws and books.
  • Organizational Layout
  • This research work borders on the right to the dignity of the human person in relation to prisons in Nigeria. Chapter one borders on the general introduction of the research topic and how it wants to ascertain the objective which has been outlined earlier. In addition, the problems of the research work have been duly outlined in this chapter and what the work seeks to achieve. Chapter two however, outlines the conceptual clarification and historical evolution of the right to human dignity and the state of prisons in Nigeria, it inculcates the definition of right, the right to human dignity, the history of prisons in Nigeria pre/post-colonial era. The conceptual clarification basically shed more light on what had been earlier stated on the chapter one.
  • Chapter three which is the analysis of the welfare of prisoners in Nigeria covers issues such as Accommodation, feeding, clothing, access to clean water, healthcare/treatment, sanitary facilities/hygiene and death roll. This chapter basically highlights the conditions of life of the inmates briefly shedding light to the basic amenities availably provided for the prisoners.
  • Chapter four borders on the nature and content of prisoner’s right, it include a jurisprudential vision of Nigerian Prisons, chapter four also examines the extent of prisoners’ rights under the Nigerian legal system and also the outcry for human rights enforcements.
  • Chapter five of this long essay contains the summary, findings, and recommendations. Chapter five is basically the final comments about the subject matter.  

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