- Our prisoners should be entitled to healthy and adequate meals
If truly a hungry man is an angry man, then trouble looms in our prisons. A non-governmental organisation, the Alliance for Good Governance and Democracy (AGGD), has revealed that the Nigerian Prisons Service is owing contractors supplying food to the prisons about N3billion in the last one year.
“There are about 56,000 inmates scattered in Nigerian prisons. A lot of prisoners would have been dying on a daily occurrence if not for the kind gesture of the contractors who have not relented in supplying foods to the inmates despite the huge indebtedness by NPS in the last one year,” a release signed by AGGD’s national coordinator and national secretary, Shadrack Nwokolo and Jimi Sanwo, respectively, claimed. The group said the finding was the result of a thorough investigation of the state of prisons across the nation.
This is surprising; especially coming barely months after the Federal Government increased the feeding allowance of prison inmates from N200 to N300 daily per inmate, excluding N150 allowance for gas per inmate a day, thus bringing the total provision for feeding of each inmate to N450 per day. Despite the so-called increase in the feeding allowance of our prisoners, the N450 per prisoner per day for feeding is still ridiculous. That the contractors are being owed adds salt to the injury.
Our prison authorities and the government have to realise that prisoners too have rights, and these include access to good food. Even in the best of times, our prisoners are not well fed; that is why many of them look so haggard and abandoned whenever they are brought to court. Moreover, almost all the prisons in the country are congested; making the possibility of contracting diseases very high among the inmates.
The prisoners provide many of their basic needs like tooth paste, soap, toilet rolls, etc. Indeed, life in the country’s prisons is worse than being in hell whereas prisons are supposed to be reformative centres. Here, unfortunately, they are punitive centres, irrespective of the status of the prisoners, whether they are convicts or awaiting trial.
Despite this appalling condition, some of the prisoners remain resolute about their dreams. Only a few weeks ago, we celebrated, on this page, the exploits of some of the prisoners who braced all odds to study and even excel, in spite of everything. What this tells us is that being in prison is not the end of life. Indeed, ours is one of the few countries where prisoners are seen as outcasts and never-do-well, and are therefore treated scornfully; this should not be so. Matters are worsened by the fact that majority of the inmates in the country are awaiting trial, which means they could still be freed after trial in the courts of law. So, we ought not to let them pay for offences or crimes they never committed by treating them disdainfully, a thing we should not even extend to convicts serving prison terms in the first place.
The government must probe the circumstances that led to this huge debt on prisoners’ feeding if it has released funds for the purpose. Nigerians want to know those responsible for this ugly situation and would also appreciate if such people are arrested and prosecuted to serve as deterrence to others. And if it is the government that is yet to release funds for the purpose, it should do so without further delay and also ensure that such a thing does not recur.
‘The government must probe the circumstances that led to this huge debt on prisoners’ feeding if it has released funds for the purpose. Nigerians want to know those responsible for this ugly situation and would also appreciate if such people are arrested and prosecuted to serve as deterrence to others’
We have had many cases of jail breaks due often to neglect of prisoners. Prisoners are human beings and are therefore entitled to their daily bread. They can also become violent when starved because a hungry man has nothing to lose. We should not push them to the wall.