The Controller General (CG), of Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS), Zakari Ibrahim, yesterday refuted claims that the service has underground cells were prisoners are locked up. The CG was reacting to recent claims which accused the service of locking up prisoners and minors in the alleged underground cells.
Ibrahim who made this disclosure through the Prisons Public Relations Officer, Ope Fatinikun, said inmates in any of the prisons are sent by courts of competent jurisdiction and released by the same.
He said upon assumption of office, the current administration mapped out a three-point agenda which inculcates security, training and welfare of staff and inmates.
As against claims that such inmates are locked up underground because of lack of space in the prisons, he said, "On the issue of underground cells, no prison in Nigeria has an underground cell.
"The NPS has 811 juveniles in our Borstal Training Institutions in Kaduna, Ilorin and Abeokuta with 402, 224 and 185 inmates respectively.
"The NPS by its regulation does not hold persons below the age of 18years and when inmates are suspected to be underage, steps are usually taken to address it."
Speaking on a recent publication in a national daily (not THISDAY), which published pictures of inmates sleeping on the floor, Zakari said it is anything but far from the truth.
He said, "These are not inmates of any Prison in Nigeria. A critical look at the picture shows that these are likely dead bodies which may not be from Nigeria and there are women among them.
"The picture depicted genocidal situation or mass grave because the service takes classification as a matter of high priority despite its obvious challenges.
"Pregnant female inmates sent to the Prisons by the courts or who have children that are below the age of 18months are accepted in the prisons.
"The pregnant females inmates are allowed to have their babies kept with them until they are 18months since Cap 366 Laws of Federation,1990 allows for this.
" After 18months,these babies are handed over to the relatives of the female inmates or the social welfare personnel. At present,there are 1,114 female inmates in Prisons across the country."
He classified the female inmates as those convicted, those awaiting trial, the condemned and those on life sentences with statistics of 241, 840, 25 and 8 respectively.