1.1       Early prison systems: From pre-independence Nigeria society to 1960
            Prison are penal institution created with the objective of curtailing the freedom of movement and certain rights of individuals whose liberty has been restricted by law. According to Elias1 He said that, they are condemned to assure the successful administration of justice or the application of period treatment.

            The early development of prisons world-wide, therefore, possessed little or no consideration for human rights as it is presently concerned of and attested to both on international law and laws of specific nations.
            The above statement is important in understanding the development and conditions of the Nigerian prisons and the structural historical constrains that are embodied in the prison system. In relation to human rights issue, Awe2 noted the use of confinements and incarceration among some pre-colonial Nigeria societies such as the TIV, the Yoruba, the Edo and the Fulani. However, the modern prison system as we know it is a colonial creation.
            The history of penal institution in Nigeria started with the British administration of the Lagos colony on 1861.
            The British colonial overlords opened the broad street prison designed to accommodate 300 prisoners and modeled on the British system in 1872.
            Indigenous system of confinement and incarceration were not taken into consideration, rather British prison system was introduced and accepted hook, line and sinker understandably because Lagos was a British colony. This remain so until 1876, the supreme court ordinance that made provisions for the establishment of prison came into force. The prison ordinance formalized the British colonial prison system in Nigeria with the expansion of British rule, the early colonial prison system also expanded. By 1909 prison had been established at old Calabar, Onitsha, Degama, Benin city and sapele but like the colonial administration, the colonial prison system responded to the specific nature of British, conquest of the various colonies which constituted the present Nigeria.
            The colonial prison system was a decentralized system governed by different forms of administration ranging from that of District commissioner and residents, to that of Native authorities run directly by the colonial administration, while the other was run by the native authorities. It is important to note that these courts and prisons were active courts only in name, as the traditional native court and the system of punishment of offenders still continues unrecognized by the British government. As noted by Ekpe3, the British system of prison administration thus set a standard which was very difficult to keep and classifications initially in 1832 did not go beyond the division into juveniles, felons, debtors and those awaiting trail. In 1885, some measure of national training was introduced on the administrative level. A uniform penal system was introduced after the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914. the need for cheap prison labour for the Eastern railways and the coal field, gave the government an opportunity to revise the rough and ready system of prison distribution and classification so as to have uniformity in the administration and government of prison, in the whole country.
            Two landmarks on the history of the colonial prison system were remarkable on the administration structure and conditions of the prisons. They were the impact of Frederick Lugard’s administration especially after 1914 and the R.E Dolan reforms of the  prison system which occurred after the second world war from 1945 to 1955. they influence the post-colonial prison and operations of the present day Nigerian prisons. The prison system under lord Lugard consisted of the government prisons for keeping offenders convicted by the British, established supreme and provincial courts. The prisons were classified into three types, namely. Convict prisons for those sentenced to more than two years imprisonment, provincial prisons for those serving term which were less than two years, and divisional prisons for those serving short term of up to six months.
            The prisons according to Awe4 were controlled by director of prisons and operation by prisons by administrative officers. As regards the condition in the prisons and their staffing situation Awe5 said that the prison system suffered from lack of good staff, from poor health and sanitation condition in the prisons and their staffing suffered from lack of good staff, from poor health and sanitation conditions and from absence of any clear idea of the purpose of prisons. The death rate in some of the government’s prisons was so high in 1918 and 1919 that commission had to be set up in 1920 to investigate food and other matters affecting the health of the prisoner sin the southern province. In another, the situation with regards to health and sanitation was the same. There was no provision for guarantee facilities for infected prisoners and it was only on 1926 that cells for isolated cases were built in Kaduna and Jos prisons. Indeed in most northern end southern province provision were not made for the segration of criminals who are lunatics four other prisons structural conditions particularly nature of the buildings. Created major problems for the effective classification of offenders. The prison system under lord lugard which was dual. In structure and it was deficient not only in terms of basic administrative and organizational principles and practice but also in term of the existence of a clear cut philosophy for the treatment of offenders and the observation of human rights.
            Very few major changes occurred in the development of the prison system until after the second world war. During the tenure of Mr. R.E. Dolan as the Nigerian Director prisons, new directions emerged between 1945 and 1955 contemporary practices and his structures were put in place or conceived at his time. The main emphasis of Dolan reforms included the treatment of offenders, the administration of the prison system and the education and training of warders.
            Apart from providing a ten years plan of prison development, he entrenched the principle of classification of offenders with in the same prison, paying particular attention to female prisoners, who because of their small number often suffered most. According to Awe, Dolan imitated attempts a concentration of female prisoners in major prisons so as to ensure classification and correctional treatment on the basics of gender. He also improved the education of prisoners, introduced an earning scheme and after care provisions and expanded leisure facilities in prisons. A brostal institution and four more reformatory  schools were opened throughout the trained and upgraded the quality of prisons, personnel, particularly wardresses, employment the first time were offered permanent employment and had included among them educated person. New prisons planned under Dolan included the open prison at Kakuri and the maximum security prison in Lagos.
            They were responsible for the transfer of the prison Headquarters from Enugu to Lagos and oversaw the regionalization of the prison system under the mailperson constitution in 1954 as noted by Onyebuchi6. The  outline of the administrative structure and content of the prisons system set in motion by Dolan has not significantly changed even up till now.

1.2       Prison system today: from 1960 to-date
            There is death of up to date information on the Nigeria prison system. However, available data7 shows that there are 129 prison of various classes and 223 lock-ups. These includes one open prison, eight prison farms, one brostal home and one brostal remand center. The lock –ups are located on seven northern states. Lock-ups are mid-way jail houses catering for prisoners awaiting trail or on remand and are located in places where the distance to the nearest prison vis-à-vis judicial divisions where cases are being head is rather far unfortunately, the prisons and lock-ups are currently heavily overcrowded, under-staffed, under-funded and inadequately provided with basic resources. According to a former minister of internal affairs in a Newswatch magazine report8. About 58,000 prisoners in the country are housed in prisons meant for 28,000 inmates.
            The prison population is a sort of “mixed grill. In the sense that it is made up of adult males and females, young persons, children pregnant women, nursing mothers. Criminal and civil inmates, debtors, detainees, first offender, that is, “star prisoner” and recidivists, long and short term prisoners condemned prisoners and inmates waiting trial or being held for safe custody9 the groups are not represented equally. For instance, less than four percent of all the total prison admissions are female10”. More than 55 percent of the convicted prisoners are first offenders11. About 80 percent of the convicted prisoners serve short-term imprisonment of under two years12. More than 60 percent of the total prison admission are awaiting trial or being remanded in custody13. About 50 percent of the convicted prisoners are between the age of 26 and 50 years14 and about 33 percent of all convicted prisoners are sentenced for stealing with violence15.
            Over congestion in the prisons has been a long standing problem. And has often been identified, alongside poor funding as one of the fundamental causes of much of the bestiality of conditions in the prisons and the failure of Nigeria prisons in their reformative and rehabilitative roles. This opinion was shared by the General Gown administration16 when it noted in 1971 that the gross inadequacy of accommodation for prisoners makes it very difficult for the prison Department to discharge its primary function of identifying the reason for the anti-social behaviour of offender and teaching and training them to become useful citizens on the society.
            Staffing is also inadequate with staff strength of 18,000 catering to the needs of the above inmates. Most of the staff are custodian with the number of medical and welfare staff grossly inadequate.
            Generally, the conditions deteriorated day-by-day as over population of the prison has combined with inadequate staff, poor physical structures, low morale and a general decrease or, non –availability of other basic resources to create a nightmare of daily deaths, epidemics and the limited or virtually non-existent observance of the human rights of the inmates. The ages of most of the prisons range between fifty and eighty years. In the absence of any major structural changes since colonial period, there is a dangerous and inhuman condition of inmates in Nigerian prisons.
            On 20 December 1992, the chairman of the presidential task force on prisons reform in Nigeria was quoted by the Nigerian Television Authority, Kaduna, as saying that during their visits of Nigerian prisons they discovered that about 90 percents were inherited from the colonial administration and thus lack the basic infrastructure to enable them perform effectively.
            In a submission to the Nigerian human right commission of July 1996, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) called for reshaping of the prison system17
            It noted that Nigerian prison system suffers from a basic lack of humanity. The reason for this according to CLO includes the colonial legacy of repressing upon which the institution was founded, poor working conditions inadequate training and motivation, manipulation of the agencies by successive governments in the country to silence opposite.
            Nigerian prison authorities are reticent about prison funding with the result that figures on funding is scarce. The literature Nigeria prison service Annual Report 1984/86, provides a picture of poor funding or Nigerian prisons.
            This manifested in the fact that prisons are deprived of adequate and qualitative foods, clothing, beddings, medical care, e.t.c.
            There is also the deprivation of meaningful rehabilitative training programmes due to lack of money to purchase or repair broken equipment and other facilities. Nigerian prisons by saying that the prison system is considered a low priority era by the government, hence, the poor funding upon which most other factors depends.
            Another major problem of the prisons system is that there has been over- use of imprisonment as a means of punishment. This can be appreciated for the fact that about one third of the convicted prisoners are incarcerated for stealing without violence about 80 percent are serving not more than two years of imprisonment, and more than 55 percent are first offenders18. The presence of pregnant mothers and nursing mothers, children and mentally disordered persons former example attesting to the above fact19
            Added to this, is the fact that more than 60 percent of the total prison admission are awaiting trial being remanded in custody20.
            Without expansion of accommodation and other facilities for the inmates, the prison population far outstrips the available space for the inmates.
            There is naturally, severe strain on the available facilities causing prison conditions to get progressively worse. On prison decongestion, Amadi21 noted that the court can sentence an offender to one hundred naira fine or alternatively to three months imprisonment. This is within the law because the law provides for these two sentences in the alternative. The judges can fully utilise alternative sentence at their disposal within the law to decongest the prisons. The prison statutory tasks of ensuring the safe custody of offenders as well as their reformation and rehabilitation have been hampered by the constraints posed by a lost of problems stated in the Nigerian prison service.
            Annual report22 is as follows.
1.         Acute shortage of drugs and ambulances in prison clinic leading to high incidence of epidemics and high morality rate among prisoners.
2.         Acute shortage of staff resulting form retirement, dismissals, resignations, death embargo and recruitment, et.c
3.         Abandonment of capital project midstream, thus aggravation prison congestion.
4.         Continued use of bucket latrines which constitute health hazards in some prison.
5.         Continued use of bucket wall instead of concrete parameter wall, which discourages escapes.
6.         Delay in the determination of convicts appeal leading to convicts spending a substantial part of their term of sentence before the determination of their appeal.
7.         Inadequate funding for the maintenance of existing infrastructure and equipment.
8.         Gross inadequacy of essential such as blankets, beds, soaps, disinfectants, prisoners, uniforms. e.t.c.
9.         Inadequate residential and office accommodation for staff near the prison to enable staff to respond immediately to crisis situation in prison during rights and escapes.
10.       Lack of promotion of eligible staff with the resultant low morale and frustrations, and by extensions, low productivity.
11.       Lack of vehicles to convey staff and prisoners as well as material to where they are badly needed and far efficient administration.
            The above problems have given consequence far the realisation of the stated statutory function of the prisons.
Empirical Review
Abakaliki prison was build in 1916 [23] under the colonial administration it has the prison capacity of -------------------under currently the table below indicates the number of the inmate therein including those on awaiting trial.
Subject matter
Awaiting trial
Grand total


            From the above only 56 out of 770 have been trial and convicted. The offence allegedly committed range form rape, stealing, robbery, communal clashes and few murder cases. Some of the awaiting trial inmates have spend not less than 5-7 years in prison not trial. Many of them are remanded in prison custody on the order of the breachs in most case the Nigerian government conceded to their lack of judgment to trial the offence alleged against the accused in the charge but proceeded to remand the accused persons. This practice has contributed in no small measure in congesting the prisons in Nigeria.
            Nigerian prisons are congested with about 36, 934 Awaiting Trial prisons as at May 2012 see Daily sun, editorial, Monday July 23, 2012 p. 18 [7].

            In Nigeria prison system those who are in awaiting trails in stayed more than their normal prison terms based in the nature of their offence if it is a case of stealing which is 3 years improvement by the time such an inmates will be in awaiting trial he or she ill be on awaiting trial more than their normal prison terms for example you see somebody, who is under awaiting for 7 years which is more than the normal sentencing. The Nigerian government should look into the case of prison and make sure that if any one is brought to the prison he or she should be trial immediately and become convicted so that such an inmate will bean to serve his prison terms than staying above the prison term which is not proper whereby such an inmate stayed above his prisons term by the time he will be trialed and is also convicted he/she will start all over to serve his prison term whereby he has stayed more than that on awaiting trial which injustice in the society.
Prison as a source of rehabilitation
            Prison are called rehabilitation centre. Which is meant they will become more learned than ever before as a result of lack of space in the prison. You somebody who committed minor offence and he will join together with hardened criminal instead of such a person to change he will become more hardened and also became thorn on the flesh of the society the capacity of some prisons are 400 but will be carrying about 600 to 650 which is not proper instead of the innocent once becoming reformed they will turn to be hardened criminal due to inadequate facilities or that the prison is carrying more than he required.
            According to Gowon during his administration he said that the condition of Nigerian prison and failure of the Nigeria in their reformative and rehabilitative roles. Instead of one being reform of hs bad behaviour he turn to be a harden criminal i.e becoming worst of what he was before. This is as a result of over grouded or over congestion in the prison. Secondly those who have no access to justice should be provided with a lawyer so that they can have access to justice.

1 Elias T.O. The Prison system in Nigeria, Lagos: University of Lagos, 1968
2 Awe, Bolenle, History of the prison system in Nigeria in T.O. Elias ed. The prison system in Nigeria Lagos university of Lagos, 1968.
3 Ekpe C.P. Life after Sentence: rehabilitation and reintegration of discharged-prisoners. In Obiora Ike, ed. The fantasy of human rights. Enugu CIDJAP. 1977 pp. 269-283
4 Awe, Bolane op.cit
5 Ibid.
6 Onyebuchi; restructuring the prison system in Nigeria. Law reform: Journal of the Nigerian Law Reform commission, No. 3 November 1983.
7 Federal prisonso f Nigeria. Annual report of the Nigerian prisons Services 1984 pp. 9-12.
8 Nigeria prisons: Living in hells cover story, Newswatch magazine vol 9 no 25 19 June 1989 pp 12-15.
9 Adube J. Nnamdi prison rights in Nigeria: a critique
10 Annual abstract of statistics 1981 pp 35-37 and Nigerian prison service annual report 1980-1981
11 Ibid
12 Annual abstract of statistics, 1981 pp 36-37
13 Social statistics in Nigeria Lagos
14 Op. cit pp. 104
15 Nigerian prisons services annual reports, 1980 and 1981.
16 Federal Government of Nigeria. A statement of Federal government policy on the re-organization of the prison service and the integration off the federal, local government native administration prisons. Lagos: federal ministry of information 1971 pp.2.
17 Civil liberties organization – towards a humane prisons system: submission CLO to the Nigerian Human rights commission July and human rights in Nigeria Abuja; National Human heights commission, 1998,.
18 Annual abstract of statistics. Lagos, 1981 Pp. 35-38.
19 Ehonwa,  Ozaze Lanre. Prisoners in the shadows Lagos Clo 1993 Pp 137
20 Ehonwa, Ozaze Lanre op. cit pp. 33-41
21 Amadi G.O.S prisons decomgestion: the Nedd for alternative sentience the Judiciary, in: Obiora Ike; ed the fantasy of human right. Enugu CIDJ 1997 Pp 195-222.
22 Nigeria Prison annual report 1984 Pp 5-6
23 Sources Abakaliki Prison
7 Dailly Sun, July 23rd, 2012 p. 18

Annual abstract of statistics in Nigeria 1980. Also Nigeria prison services annual report 1980/81 cited on p. 80 1993 J.U.S Vol. 6. No. 4.
Black Law Dictionary sixth centennial edition (1891-1991) P. 11194.
Human Rights watch: Prison conditions and the treatment of prisoners @ http:/hrp.org/prison/unit.nations.html.
International covenant on civil political Rights
Ngozi Udombana “Rights of prisoners and detainees in Nigeria.
The 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Prisons Act cap. P29, 2004
The African Charter on Human and People’s Ratification and Enforcement Act Cap 10LFN, 1990 now cap A9 Vol. 1 LFN. 2004.
The propurt of prison system-what to Expect @ http:/wwhumanights.gov.an/social-justice/tracking/prisons-htm.
Prisons Act CAP 366 laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1990.
UN Human Rights Committee, general comment 21 paragraph 3 the human Rights Committee provides authoritative interpretations of the ICCPER though the periodic insurance of periodicals.
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