Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has called on the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, to investigate the illegal killing of convicts and awaiting trial inmates in Nigeria through the failure of government to provide them with proper medical facilities in prisons.
In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Falana argued that the Nigerian state has failed to provide adequate medical facilities in the prison to cater for the treatment of prisoners, especially those with terminal illnesses.
Citing the case of Nigerien convict, Hamani Tidjani, who died of stroke at the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison in Lagos in January, and other prisoners who suffered similar fates after being denied proper medical attention, Mr. Falana said the Nigerian government has failed in enforcing prisoners’ right to life.
Mr. Tidjani was arrested in Cotonou, Benin Republic is 2003 and sentenced to 10 years in prison by an Ijebu Ode High Court for receiving stolen goods. He was however not released from custody after serving his jail term because he was standing for similar offences in a Lagos High Court.
“In the last one year or thereabout four other convicted prisoners of Nigerian nationality namely Messrs Ganiyu Adeniyi, Danda Akanbi, Thomas Odafe and Ariyo Osisanya had died in the same prison on account of medical neglect,” he said.
“From the information at our disposal the killing of prison inmates through medical neglect is not uncommon in all other prisons in the country. For instance, a Mr. Toyese Kehinde who had served a month jail term for his inability to pay a fine of N5,000.00 (Five Thousand Naira) for an environmental offence died at the Benin prison on September 20, 2013.
The said Mr. Kehinde was illegally detained after the completion of his sentence. A week later, a 21-year old undergraduate of the University of Benin, Ibrahim Momodu also died in the Benin Prison. Another inmate, James Oglesby had died last year after he was beaten by two other prisoners inside the prison’s recreation yard.
“In a similar vein, Mr. Sunday Akinyemi who was standing trial for conspiracy and stealing of funds belonging to his own company also died in December, 2012. In that case, the Honourable Justice E.A Adebajo (now retired) of the Lagos High Court had refused to allow the applicant who was standing trial before him to travel abroad at his own expense to treat cancer of the colon which was diagnosed by the military hospital, Ikoyi and confirmed by the Lagos University Teaching Hospital while he was undergoing trial before the judge. When the health condition of the defendant became critical our law firm requested the Ikoyi prison management to either treat him or release him for treatment.”
Mr Falana reminded the government that prisoners are entitled to all fundamental human rights guaranteed to all citizens except the right to personal liberty and movement.
“It is indisputable that the State owes it a duty to ensure that the right to life of every prison inmate in its custody is respected.”
Citing Prison Act (CAP P29) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, argued that since the state has failed in providing adequate medical care for inmates, Inmates with critical health conditions should be released to their families and friends for proper care.
He also urged the NHRC to push for the payment “exemplary damages to the families of prison inmates who had lost their lives on account of medical neglect and the trial of all public officers whose negligence has contributed to the killing of prison inmates.”