Like Uba Sani in Kaduna, Other Governors Should Help Decongest the Country’s Correctional Centres

Femi Falana

Femi Falana

The historic release of many convicts and detainees from the Kaduna Correctional Centre this afternoon is one of the best programmes outlined to mark the 2024 democracy day. I thank the Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Uba Sani, for inviting me to witness this memorable occasion. I am particularly delighted to note that the governor has paid the fines of N10,000 imposed on some of the convicts who have been languishing in custody for years due to impecuniosity.

I appreciate the significance of the release of the convicts and detainees because I was detained in several detention facilities, including correctional centres under the defunct military junta. Whenever I was released from incarceration, I was always sure that I would go back. Indeed, I went back many times. Apart from regular detention, I was charged with various criminal offences, including treasonable felony but I was never convicted.

I was not arrested or detained for committing any criminal offence whatsoever but for joining other patriots to fight against unending military rule in Nigeria. At the material time, Governor Uba Sani and Senator Shehu Sanni were subjected to intimidation and harassment on account of their involvement in the struggle for the restoration of democracy in the country.

But since democracy was restored 25 years ago, I have never been detained by any security agency. To ensure that other citizens are not arrested and detained without a legal basis, the human rights community has ensured that illegal arrest and detention are prohibited in Nigeria. The Administration of Criminal Justice Act, which has been adopted in all states of the Federation, has codified basic rights of citizens, including criminal suspects.

I am happy to learn that Chief Magistrates in Kaduna State conduct monthly visits to all police stations in their magisterial districts in accordance with the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Kaduna State. Permit me to call on judges and leaders of the Nigerian Bar Association to pay regular visits to all correctional centres in the country in accordance with section 21 of the Correctional Service Act. I am confident that if the visiting officers perform their duties the congestion of the nation’s correctional centres will be seriously reduced.

Since this is the first time that a sitting governor has visited a correctional centre in Nigeria, I am compelled to call on the Kaduna State Government to contribute to the renovation of the Kaduna Correctional Centre. This facility which was built in 1915 by the British colonial regime has not received the adequate attention of the Federal Government. In view of the fact that prison which was item 45 in the exclusive legislative list has, through the 2023 constitutional alteration, been transferred to the concurrent legislative list of the Nigerian Constitution, state governments are duty bound to invest in the nation’s correctional centres.

Finally, I congratulate the convicts and detainees who have regained their freedom today. In addition to the
release of the 110 convicts and detainees, Governor Uba Sani has set aside a special fund for their immediate rehabilitation. While commending the Governor for the kind gesture, I enjoin other state governors to contribute their quota to the task of decongesting all correctional centres in the country.