- Nigeria's Minister of Internal Affairs, Iyorchia Ayu, has inaugurated the country's new Prisons Monitoring Committee. Nigeria, which has a long history of human rights abuses, thus gets a new institution to secure rights. The Minister was upset about prison conditions during a recent visit.
Most Nigerian prisons were built 70 to 80 years ago and lack functioning basic facilities. Lacking basic infrastructure such as potable water, these prisons additionally host two or three times the quantity of prisoners they originally were constructed for. While the Nigerian government for a long time has acknowledged these problems, nothing has been done so far.
Now, however, the Minister of Internal Affairs wants to see improvements. Inaugurating the new committee, Minister Ayu charged the committee members to be "dedicated and fair" in the discharge of their duties, according to a press release by the federal government of Nigeria.
Mr Ayu said similar committees would be set up at state levels and in each prison. He further said this was necessitated by the visits he and the Minister of State undertook to some prisons across the country.
According to the Internal Affairs Minister, some of the problems in the prison were "due to inadequate funding over the years" and that as soon as money is made available he would "ensure that both the quality and quantity of food in the prisons improves."
Minister Ayu further said that, in spite of "the efforts government is making to improve the welfare of prisoners," he was not satisfied with what he saw in the prisons because standards were not acceptable to him.
Mr Ayu, who condemned the quantity and quality of food and the empty medical stores, added that there were not enough blankets, mattresses and beds. He nevertheless maintained all these items had been accommodated in the budget for this year.
The Minister said the prisons must be a centre for reformation and not just a centre for punishment, adding that he would, in consultation with the leadership of the prison service and stakeholders come up with ideas aimed at "restoring the prisons' lost glory," as he called it.
Nigeria on several occasions has harvested criticism by international human rights groups over its poor prison conditions. Inmates usually lack food, medical services and basic hygienic standards. They are mostly isolated from contact with their families and are surrendered to the goodwill of prison guards.
The US-based group Human Rights Watch recently called Nigerian prison conditions for "poor and sometimes life-threatening." Also torture and ill-treatment of prisoners was known to happen, the group held.
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