A Bill seeking to establish a parole board for those convicted of murders and serving life sentences scaled through the second reading in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The bill sponsored by Hassan Nalaraba from Nasarawa State seeks to repeal Section 40 of the Correctional Service Act of 2019, and replace it with a new provision on the composition of the parole board, and an emphasis on prisoners serving life sentences for murder.
No debate was taken on the bill, as the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, described it as a straight forward bill.
However, Linda Ikpeazu (Anambra), raised concern on the bill that did not cover other crimes aside from murder.
“I support the issue of parole, but why is the sponsor of the bill singling out murderers, what of other offences?” she said.
The Speaker in his response said it will be ‘corrected’ at the committee level.
The bill was referred to the Committee on Interior.
Meanwhile, the House also passed a bill to alter the constitution to put correctional facilities on the concurrent legislative list.
The bill, if passed, will move prisons from the exclusive list to the concurrent legislative list.
In 2019, President Muhamadu Buhari signed into law the Nigerian Correctional Service bill, which changed the name from Nigerian Prisons Service to Nigerian Correctional Service.
Leading the debate on the bill, the sponsor of the bill, Benjamin Kalu, argued that states sharing the responsibility of prison funding/management would help check indiscriminate imprisonment of people for minor offences created by state laws.
He argued further that the current state of prisons in Nigeria makes it hard to reform an offender.
Also, Mr Kalu argued that prisons are congested due to obsolete laws and inadequate funding.
“It is clearly known that obsolete legislation, slow justice system and inadequate funding are prominent on the list of challenges bedevilling the Nigerian prisons to reform locked-up inmates.
“The problem of prison congestion in the country is huge. For instance, the March 2019 edition of the Lagos State Criminal Information System revealed that though the five prisons in Lagos State have a combined holding capacity of 4,087, they were holding 9,044 inmates.
“A former Comptroller of Prisons in Lagos State, Tunde Ladipo, said the Badagry Prison, which was built to house only a little over 100 inmates, was at a time holding over 700 inmates.
“But most importantly, it will greatly reduce the instances of violation of prisoners’ dignity and fundamental rights
“As we all know Nigeria prisons lack the capacity to reform errant members of the society sent there for correction. Instead, many offenders sent to the prisons turn out to become more hardened.”
Speaking in support of the bill, Ahmed Jaha from Borno State, stated that the bill will not take away correctional facilities from the federal government, rather allow states to also fund prisons.
The Bill was referred to the Special Committee on Constitution amendment headed by the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase.
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