Pre-trial detention commonly referred to as awaiting trial in Nigeria is an evil that has continued to destroy thousands of lives globally. The data made available by the Nigerian Correction Service (NCS), indicates that as at October 2021, the number of awaiting trial inmates in Nigeria is 74per cent, as compared to 38.2per cent in the US, 13.2per cent in Ghana, and 29.3per cent in South Africa. The implication of this revelation is that three out of every four inmates are awaiting trial; and until last week, Mr. Maxwell Dele was one of them. His release after 11 years of incarceration without trial and the associated back story have brought back the issues of awaiting trial and prison congestion to the table of public discussion.
The release of Mr. Maxwell Dele was facilitated by Advocates Sans Frontiere France (lawyers without borders). According to the story, he was tortured and compelled to sign a pre-written statement by the now disbanded, infamous SARS police unit, before being taken to court, and subsequently remanded for 11 years for a crime that his neighbour allegedly committed. He is just one person out of more than 36,000 inmates awaiting trial in Nigeria.
Mr Dele’s case is a vivid example of the fate of thousands of the less privileged in our society who find themselves on the wrong side of the law, either by commission, association, or being roped in by the pecuniary proclivities of the Nigerian police. These men and women, some of them innocent, but unfortunately unable to provide their own legal defence, have been denied the right to live like human beings; rights to personal freedom, liberty, and fair trial. These rights are provided for in articles (6) and (7) of the African Charter for Human and People’s Rights; and also, in sections 35 and 41 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.
It is quite unfortunate that, in spite of the awareness that the population of awaiting trial inmates is putting a strain on existing facilities, the government has refused to tackle the problem at the root. During President Jonathan’s administration, a committee led by John Odah gave a damning report that Nigerian prisons are unfit for human habitation, but nothing tangible was done to change the narrative. The current government’s idea is to expand correctional facilities in the country, by building seven 3000-capacity correctional facilities, one in the FCT, and one in each of the six geopolitical zones, starting from Kano in the North West and Rivers in the South South.
Building new correctional facilities is good; however, it does not solve the problem, since it does not make mathematical sense; because the number of awaiting trial inmates in Nigerian prisons is in excess of 36,000. If the FG erects seven new facilities of 3000 capacity each, giving a total additional capacity of 21,000, there is still a deficit of 15000, meaning that the problem of congestion remains.While policymakers continue to sleep-walk on the decisions that could speed up the wheel of justice, the plight of inmates, of which 74per cent are awaiting trial is deteriorating, and a good number of them are already damaged psychologically. Research sponsored by Carmelite Prisons’ Organisation, using the Raven’s Progressive Matrices, a general intelligence test, showed a significant cognitive decline rate that is faster among awaiting trial inmates relative to their convicted counterparts. This implies that the longer suspects remain in the limbo of pre-trial, the harder it might be for them to lead a normal life when they are eventually released.
The government at both the federal and state levels are completely responsible for the thousands of inmates languishing in Nigerian prisons without trial, and the first agency of government complicity in this evil is the police. They fill up the correctional facilities with mass and arbitrary arrests, tardy investigations, and wrong profiling of suspects.
Secondly, the delay or outright refusal of policymakers within the judiciary to expand the scope of the cases a magistrate could handle is a very huge contributor to the plague of awaiting trial cases; due to the fact that suspects would have to wait, sometimes indefinitely, for their cases to be reassigned for lack of jurisdiction. As a result, some of the inmates virtually do not exist in the judiciary system because of missing case files. As was the case of Sikiru Alade who was arrested in March 2003 when he was 30 years; and detained in Kirikiri Maximum Prison without trial for nine years. During the hearing for his release in 2012, the FG claimed he was never in their system, even when there was evidence to the contrary.
Thirdly, the illegal activities of wardens contribute in no small measure to the suffering of awaiting trial inmates. In one of my recent pieces, I made mention of the amount of humanitarian good done for Nigerians, in Nigeria by organisations from other nations, and today’s piece was occasioned by the fruits of the Labour of one of such groups, ASF France. It begs the question, what are Nigerians doing for Nigerians in this regard? What role has a major behemoth like the Nigerian Bar Association been playing to reduce or eradicate this plague? How often has the NBA in various states visited prison inmates, especially those awaiting trial for the purpose of assisting those in need? How many of their members actually schedule quarterly pro-bono services for those without the means to afford legal defence? With the thousands languishing in the almost infinite conveyor belt of awaiting trial, it is apparent that our legal men and women are missing in action in the service of the downtrodden.
Besides the NBA, the Church is mandated to visit those in prison; and I know there are various Churches and Christian organisations doing this. However, it is my belief, that this mandate goes beyond teaching the Bible and bringing relief to those in prisons. Christians also have the mandate of speaking for those who are unable to speak for themselves. In this regard, Christians, and especially so-called mega Churches with all the requisite resources to do this are failing even those in their local assemblies. Most Churches with legal teams are only activated to defend the Church and so-called ‘Men of God’; whereas, the Church’s legal capacity ought to be deployed in the defence of those without a means and voice. In as much as various interest groups, can, and should take steps geared towards alleviating the plights of thousands of inmates awaiting trial, the ultimate responsibility for repairing the damaged justice system lies squarely on the shoulders of the government. Government must begin to take concrete steps to set in motion those policies that would deal with the root cause of the ugly situation. Arbitrary and mass arrests and detention should be outlawed; magistrates and judges should be willing to toss tardy investigated cases.
The federal government should encourage other state governments to borrow a leaf from Lagos State, to implement a similar plea-bargain programme for awaiting trial inmates as a major avenue to curbing the menace. The Chief Justice of the Federation should also encourage State Chief Judges to routinely hold a monthly or quarterly session at major correctional facilities for the purpose of setting free inmates who have been incarcerated for more than four years, depending on the severity of the alleged crime. There are thousands of Maxwells and Sikirus languishing in correctional facilities across the country. Most of them have been emotionally and mentally damaged; most have been completely forgotten, yet they are compelled to live under conditions no human being should be subjected to. Sadly, some of them might be innocent. But no one deserves to go through such life wasting ordeal.
By: Raphael Pepple
Southeast: Epicentre Of Insecurity?
If there is any issue in the country that needs urgent attention, it is the terrible insecurity situation in the Southeast. The problem has reached an alarming rate and it is high time politics, ethnicity and other unhealthy considerations were set aside so as to address the challenge squarely. It does not give joy that for the past years, the once peaceful zone has remained the epicentre of insecurity in the country. No day passes without a report of one kidnapping or the other in the region, particularly, in Enugu State. The Enugu-Ugwuogo-Opi Nsukka Road; 4-Corner-Udi Road; Old Udi-Oji River Road, and virtually all the express roads in the state have become kidnapping zones. People that go to work in Enugu from Nsukka and other towns in the state now do so at a high risk as the possibility of their safe arrival at their workplaces and return is not guaranteed.
Even when attending events in the villages, you are not safe. On Friday, August 25, there was an attempt to kidnap a classmate of mine and a journalist, Mr. Ikem Okuhu, at Umabor, Eha Alumona, Nsukka, during a burial ceremony, by men disguised as police officers. But for the intervention of friends and other people at the event, it would have been a different story. Other Southeastern states are not any better securitywise. Kidnapping, killing and other forms of insecurity have become the order of the day. Last Tuesday, the nation received the shocking news of the killing of about eight security operatives comprising soldiers, policemen and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps at Umualumaku community, Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State. The Southeast definitely cannot continue like this. It is affecting the people’s source of livelihood, their health, their psychological well being and everything
You can imagine the people, having to live in fear over these years both in their homes, on the road, at public places, everywhere. It is high time the southeast governors came together, kept their political ambitions, their selfish interests behind and found a lasting solution to this insecurity problem that is destroying the region. Governance is not just about what you will gain as a leader. It should be more about what you should do to better the lots of your people. The immediate past governors of the region came up with the idea of setting up a security outfit, Ebubeagu, similar to Amotekun that exists in the Southwest but that was dead on arrival because of the selfish interests of the governors and their failure to work as a body. The current governors have shown a sign of their willingness to work together.
Rising from their meeting in Enugu some weeks ago, they made known their resolution to fight insecurity decisively in the region individually and collectively, in partnership with the Federal Government and other Stakeholders. However, it is over a month after the meeting. We expect to see the road map of how they intend to tackle the menace. The people have heard sweet talks and empty promises for a long time. What they want to see now is action. They want to see the governors truly committed to this cause through good governance and physical development of their states. Economic development of the region is key in solving this problem. By creating jobs and economic opportunities, the appeal of criminal activities for young people can be reduced. This can be achieved through investments in infrastructure, education, and entrepreneurship programmes. Sometimes when you go to a state like Enugu you wonder how they survive due to the dearth of industries
. Those involved in agriculture find it difficult to do so because their farms have been taken over by criminals. In a national television interview recently, the former Governor of Enugu State, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, spoke the mind of many people on the causes of youth restiveness and crime in the South East and the way forward. He listed unemployment and lack of sincere dialogue with the youth as the major things fuelling insecurity. The former PDP national chairman observed that despite the fact that there are no jobs, the young people also feel extremely marginalized in their own country. They feel that instead of the Federal Government dialoguing with them, the various governments of the South East are in close cooperation with the federal government to stifle their agitation and they react by fighting back.”The country does not give them any hope and they accuse us their leaders of having failed them so they want self-help and we work very hard to counsel them that self-help will not take them anywhere, that it can only bring federal action to eliminate those who resort to self-help”, he said.
Coupled with these is the endless, senseless, mandatory Mondays sit-at-home order. It is difficult to comprehend why the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) or whatever group that gives such order has continued on this fruitless trajectory for many years. How can you claim to be fighting for the liberation of your people when you continue to kill them, maim them, destroy their property and cause them pain? Somebody will be sitting comfortably in a safe foreign country and issuing orders on how to make his homeland unsafe and some people are sheepishly carrying out the order? We have seen some past and current governors like Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State and Peter Mba of Enugu State making efforts to put an end to the sit-at-home order, yet it persists. The criminals seem to have dared them by continuing the rain of mayhem on the states
So, there is no end in sight to the insecurity problem in the South East without the youths, the politicians who sometimes fuel the crisis and other stakeholders. It was good to hear the South East governors say they will partner with the federal government to tackle the high insecurity in the region because without the federal government’s commitment, the situation may not change. Ours is a system where the federal government is in charge of the police, army and other security agencies, where on paper the governors are said to be the chief security officers of their states but in practice they are not. With this, it is almost an impossible task for the governors to handle the situation effectively. They lack the capacity to face the criminals. The federal government must address the underlying grievances of the South Easterners through dialogue and negotiation. As have been severally suggested, the government must find a political solution to Nnamdi Kanu’s case.
The current insecurity problem in the South East is rooted in this case and the sooner it was addressed, the better. As Nwodo suggested, “The federal government should negotiate with our youth. Invite the young people and leaders from the zone and show the government’s sincerity and commitment to solving the problem. Find out from these young people why they are kidnapping, raping their people. The government and leaders of the zone will then make a commitment to solving this problem.” There is also a need for political and economic inclusion of the zone. Ensuring that the region is adequately represented in the political landscape and receives its fair share of economic resources can help address some of the underlying grievances that fuel insecurity. The nepotic tendencies in President Bola Tinubu’s appointments as being observed by many people is enough to aggravate the insecurity and agitation not only in the South East but also in other regions of the country.
Nigeria belongs to all the states and all the tribes and they all deserve to be involved in the administration of the country. That is what the Federal Character Principle which is enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution entails. To fight the lingering internal insurrection, those in authority must dispense equity, fairness and good governance. There must be good governance. Without these, the states and the country at large will continue to grapple with insecurity.
By: Calista Ezeaku
NDDC And Sustainability Of N’Delta Dev
In an era where transformative narratives are yearned for, the Niger Delta emerges as a beacon of hope, showcasing what can be achieved when vision aligns with action. The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), under the forward-thinking leadership of Dr. Samuel Ogbuku, is setting an exemplary trajectory for the Niger Delta. The British High Commission’s commitment to partner with the NDDC on clean energy initiatives heralds a promising leap towards sustainability. Second Secretary (Political), British High Commission, Mr. Hamish Tye, elucidated his vision during his visit to the commission’s headquarters, last week: Tye observed that the NDDC had shown commitment to realising sustainable development in the Niger Delta region through partnerships and collaborations with national and international development agencies.
He stated: “The attraction to the NDDC now is to explore the possibilities of collaboration. Given the work the NDDC is doing in the Niger Delta region, I believe a lot of partners would support its efforts more broadly. We would further explore partnerships with the NDDC, with a focus on renewable, clean energy and green infrastructure.”
However, the NDDC’s endeavours don’t halt at environmental initiatives. Their foresight encompasses an ecosystem of growth, enterprise, and innovation. Speaking about the collaboration with the Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone Authority (OGFTZA) to develop industrial parks, Ogbuku remarked, “The essence of these parks goes beyond industry. It’s about creating hubs of innovation, entrepreneurship, and opportunities. By amalgamating industries in a singular space, we’re fostering a unique synergy. The ripple effects will be manifold – job creation, skill development, and a boost in the regional economy.”
Managing Director of OGFTZA, Senator Tijani Kaura, concurred, in an address when he led a delegation to the NDDC, last week: “Industrial Parks stand as pillars of development. This collaboration embodies our shared vision for the Delta. By working hand in hand, we’re not just building infrastructure; we’re crafting a legacy.” At its core, the NDDC realises that the heart of the Delta lies in its youth. Recognising and harnessing this potential is paramount. On the importance of youth entrepreneurship, Ogbuku voiced his aspirations, “The youth are the Delta’s driving force. Their innovation, energy, and spirit are unparalleled. Our commitment is to provide them with the platforms, resources, and support they require to turn their dreams into reality.”
His sentiment found resonance with President of Coalition of South South Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (COSSCCIMA), Dr. Okon Emah, when they paid a courtesy visit to the NDDC, last week. He stated, “The vigour and dynamism of the youth in our region are palpable. With institutions like the NDDC offering unwavering support, the possibilities are limitless. Together, we aim to not just cultivate entrepreneurs but also leaders who will shape the future of the Niger Delta.”To ensure these initiatives are meticulously targeted, the NDDC’s approach is rooted in data. Ogbuku highlighted this, saying, “In this digital age, having a comprehensive understanding of our youth’s profile is pivotal. Our database initiative is geared towards this – a roadmap to formulate strategies tailored to our youth’s aspirations and needs.”
Piecing it all together, it becomes evident that the NDDC, flanked by its esteemed partners, is on a relentless mission. Its endeavours echo a clarion call for a brighter, prosperous, and sustainable future for the Niger Delta. Each collaboration, each initiative, is a thread in the tapestry of progress being woven. Echoing the sentiments of many who have observed this transformative journey, Kaura stated, “this is a golden age for the Niger Delta. With the NDDC’s proactive vision and the collaborative spirit of partners, we’re not just on the brink of change; we’re also in the midst of a revolution.” The world watches with bated breath as the NDDC, with its allies, craft a luminous chapter of progress, promise, and prosperity for the Niger Delta. The road ahead is laden with opportunities, and the Delta is poised to seize them all.
By: Pius Ughakpoteni
Ughakpoteni is NDDC’s Director, Corporate Affairs.
Principles Of Developmental Process
The principle of readiness has to do with the fact that every human being develops and uses personal abilities, qualities and the free will in ways that differ from everybody else. This would mean that no two persons are exactly alike or the same, both in regards to the use and exercise of personal free will, and perception of issues. People differ widely in every respect, right from the date of birth, in every experience of life and how each one ends. But among the principles and laws of development and progression, are some definite obligations which everyone must bear as personal responsibility.
An Encephalocodal law of growth and development stipulates that every human being is the sum of his cumulative thoughts, past and present. As a man thinks, so is he! For purposes of justice and fair judgement, the time of personal responsibility begins in adulthood. Yet, heredity and trails of natural history cling on.
There is also a Proximodal law in growth and development process which stipulates that immediate environment of birth or origin does not come by an accident. Everybody is born when and where he most deserves to be born into, as a most appropriate starting point in life’s journey. No injustice or mistake! Then comes the personal challenges of an individual having to use, develop and modify the cumulative contents of past thoughts which result in present conditions.
Both assets and liabilities must be utilised diligently to forge healthier development, by modifying observed lapses and adding nobler values to present assets. Nobody bears the burdens of another; not even parents, individuals and groups of people often make the common mistake of comparing themselves with others and wanting to be like some other person, away from their root specifications.
What is meant by root-specifications include the badge of natural history, made up of hereditary factors and cumulative thoughts. Everybody wears this invisible badge of our cumulative past, which determine present postings and experiences. Despite individual differences and peculiarities, there is yet another law which brings people of similar characteristics together in close proximities.
Thus in every human engagement we find that, like birds of same feathers, people of similar proclivities and perceptions, come together to pursue shared interests and values. Divisions and hostilities can arise where differences are wide and not managed effectively, especially where monetary inducements play some roles. We must also understand that the differences among individuals and groups do reflect in values and choices which people extol, which others may find unacceptable.
There is no art to find the mind’s construction on the face, we are told. In politics, like other activities which cut into the life-chances of individuals and groups, there is the likelihood of serious conflicts and disagreements arising. Such conflicts and disagreements get worse and sometimes bloody, where money plays most vital role in power-bargaining. An ideal democracy is fired by ideological conviction, whereby individuals make choices and decisions based on personal conviction. But in a political culture where private gains and “stomach infrastructure”, rather than value-based ideologies, drive the polity, violence, fraud and corrupt practices would thrive.
We cannot deny the fact that there is a growing awareness among Nigerians that politics is more of an economic enterprise of a high stake, than an ideology-driven effort to build up a just society. It becomes obvious that genuine development can hardly take place where the divisions, lapses and differences among the people would serve as tools of power exploit. Politics should be about the development of a nation, rather than the hustling for power, which translates into opportunity for primitive accumulation of wealth.The principle of readiness in development process would mean that those who hustle to acquire power should have acquired the readiness to use power for diligent and effective development purposes. Such development agenda would be a comprehensive system of up building that must go beyond construction of roads and bridges.
A large number of Nigerians know that construction projects usually involve the inflation of contract values as well as “commission” or kick-back connected with political contracts. But any development process which misses out what Paulo Freire called Conscientisation, is a failed project. The concept of conscientisation demands that all development programmes should be designed to bring about a deep-rooted change in peoples’ perceptions, mind-set, attitude and action-patterns towards some positive direction.
Late Julius Nyerere of Tanzania stressed that development should be citizen-based, with the encephalocodal law or thought-structuring having strong emphasis. It does not matter the nature of any development project. Especially for developing countries, grassroots development process should embrace and focus on the Head, the Heart and the Hands. The head includes the development of intellectual and intuitive faculties; the heart refers to conscientisation or the development of sound empathy and conscience, while development of the hands refers to productive labour.
A nation becomes corrupt and the economy unproductive because of deficiencies in development history.The principle of readiness in development process as it relates to the citizens, includes the fact that the timing of any project or programme should coincide with the ability of the citizens or groups of value to embrace and benefit maximally from it. This is based on an old admonition of not casting pearls before swine.
A lot of well-intentioned projects suffer ignominious failures and waste because of wrong timing of when to introduce and implement them. People should not be given what they are not ready to embrace, appreciate and maintain. You can lead a horse to the stream but you can hardly force it to drink. Arising from the wide variations and disparities among groups of people, it is hardly reasonable or wise to prescribe the same development menu for every group of people. A more vital aspect of development has to do with mind-set, thinking and value orientation. What economists call scales of preference counts a great deal in the application of the principle of readiness in development process. But politics of greed and myopia seeks to offer same diet for everybody, whereby money takes the position of wise choices based on personal conviction as development abhors a vacuum or one-sidedness.
By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
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