APPRAISAL OF THE NITTY GRITTY OF THE NIGERIAN CORRECTIONAL SERVICE ACT 2019 — OLUBOYO OLAMIDE
THE YARDSTICK FOR ITS EXTOLMENT
The Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 which was signed into law in the year 2019 is one of Nigeria’s most recent legislation having introduced new measures and mechanisms as to the effective operation of the Nigerian Prisons with a view to ensuring the workability of the system. It is expedient and noteworthy of a nation to frequently —when need arises— engage in legal and judicial reforms as to meet up with the needs of the ever changing society. This in turn forestalls challenges and proffer a panacea to problems. Various countries across the globe pay credence to this and this is observable in the reforms of the judicial system being carried out in these territories. To this, Nigeria is not an exception.
The above premise heralded the passage of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 which repealed the Prison Act Cap. P29, LFN, 2004 to address new issues that are not covered under the repealed Act and provide clear rules setting out obligations of the Nigerian Correctional Service and the rights of inmates. This piece does not attempt a section by section analysis of the Act but provides a blueprint for a proper coverage and to keep Nigerians abreast of the newest legislation in relation to the Nigerian Prisons.
Various challenges had overtime bedeviled the Nigerian Prison system including but not limited to: congestion of prisons with a daily influx of suspects awaiting trial, congestion in prison with inmates (overcrowding), and the dehumanizing and deplorable condition of prisoners. The innovative and positive contributions of the new legislation will be outlined below.
This is one of the innovative contributions put forward by the Act which to a large extent, if implemented, will bring notable improvement in the administration of the Nigeria justice system. This has been clearly stated in Section 12 of the Act which seeks to checkmate and rectify overcrowding. It further grants power to relevant authorities to reject intake of inmates where the correctional center in question is found to be filled to capacity.
2. JUVENILE OFFENDERS
A laudable step capable of ensuring the effective administration of the justice system in Nigeria introduced by this Act is the provision for the prevention of mixing young offenders categorized as ‘juvenile offenders’ with adult offenders. This has been clearly stated in Section 35 of the Act as young offenders are to be kept in separate custodial facilities away from the adult and that the facilities for these juvenile offenders are to serve as rehabilitation and correctional centres. The same section makes provision for the establishment of training institutions for these juvenile offenders in all states of the Federation.¹
3. FEMALE INMATES
Another provision made possible by the Nigerian Correctional Service Act which is a lacking substance in the repealed Prison Act Cap. P29 is the provision of separate facilities for female inmates in the various states of the Federation. This also includes the provision of necessary and adequate facilities to address the special needs of female inmates, pregnant women, nursing mothers and babies. Also included is the provision for creches in every female custodial centre for the wellbeing of babies in custody of their mothers. By virtue of the Act, babies will not be given the permissible order to remain in the custodial facilities after some stated number of months as they shall be handed over to the families of the inmates² concerned. All these are clearly stated in Section 34 of the Act as it borders on issues regarding female inmates.
4. INMATES LABOUR
The Act clearly posits and makes provisions to guide the right of the inmates by clearly stating that inmates shall not in any form be held in slavery or servitude, which shows that the inmates’ right to dignity of human persons³ is still being protected right there in Prison. Moreover, the form of labour carried out by the inmates must not in any circumstance cause grievous physical or mental suffering, pain or distress to the inmates (afflictive nature) and such labour must not be carried out for the personal benefit of any correctional officer.
Furthermore, provision is made for the intervention of a medical officer, in special circumstances, to certify that an inmate be excused from labour or be made to perform light labour. Nevertheless, such medical officer must be guided to provide right information on the issue of certification as proffering bogus fact of certification would cause the medical officer to meet his waterloo and face the law. All these provisions are incorporated in Section 15 of the Act
5. NON CUSTODIAL SERVICE
The Nigerian Correctional Service Act is indicative of a commendable and laudable effort made towards making provisions for a more humane and rehabilitative form of sanctions. Flowing from this, the Act provides for non custodial service directed towards the administration of non custodial measures like community service, probation, parole, restorative justice measures and also subsequently provide for the establishment of a National Committee on Non Custodial measures to be appointed by the President and constituted by the National Assembly. This is contained in Section 37 of the Act.
6. REFORMATION AND REHABILITATION OF INMATES
The Act also makes provisions to enhance the reformation and utmost rehabilitation of the inmates concerned by creating avenues and opportunities ranging from education, vocational training, training in modern farming techniques etc for the inmates. Moreover, from the foregoing, provisions for the establishment of well equipped industrial centres for the enhancement of vocational skills for the training of inmates in the designated custodial centres have also been made. Unequivocally, this, if effectively implemented, will cause notable improvement in the enablement of the reformation of the inmates. This is contained in Section 14 of the Act.
This work has attempted a review of the core provisions of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019. It has proffered the innovative and positive contributions the enactment of the Act has brought to fore and one cannot but wish for its propitiousness if effectively implemented. The Act to an extent cannot be adjudged on a faultless level as it has its hiccups but it is not within the purview of this piece to discuss that as the positive contributions no doubt outweigh the supposed hiccups. The paramount issue is to advocate for the effective and successful implementation of this Act as that will be the yardstick by which effective administration of Prison Service system will be measured vis-a-vis the Act.
¹Section 35(2), The Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019.
²Section 34(3), The Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019.
³Section 34(2), 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Cap. C23 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Oluboyo Olamide Taiwo is a law student of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Benin-city, Edo State. He’s a prolific writer who has written several articles; an indefatigable personality and one with a penchant taste in law and its application.