While the country celebrated the recent release of underage inmates by the Lagos state division of the Nigerian prison service, the attention of HealthNewsNG.com has been drawn to the potential health crises imminent at the Badagry prison in Lagos state.
The state of the prison speaks of gross neglect and disregard for human life by the authorities which can have dire consequences if not given urgent attention.
The condition of the prison was discovered during a working visit by a team led by Barr. Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem, Executive Director of Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative (PRAI) and a 2017 fellow of the US Government’s Nelson Mandela Washington Fellowship.
In a letter addressed to the State Governor and other stakeholders and made available to HealthNewsNG.com, Barr Ahmed appealed to the Governor to use his office to implement the provisions of the Child’s Rights Law of Lagos State 2007.
The law mandates the Commissioner of Home Affairs to establish institutions that would cater for child offenders. It states:
(1) The Commissioner must –
(a) establish in any part of the State, or any part of the Local Government Area, the
following approved children’s institutions –
(i) Children Attendance Centre,
(ii) Children Centre,
(iii) Children Residential Centre,
(iv) Children Correctional Centre,
(v) Special Children Correctional Centre; and
(vi) such other institutions as the Commissioner may from time to time establish.
Highlighting some of the reasons for the frequent outbreak of infections in the facility, Barr. Ahmed charged the government to take proactive steps to arrest major disease outbreaks in the detention facility.
The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has estimated that more than 1 million children are behind bars around the world. Many are held in decrepit, abusive, and demeaning conditions, deprived of education, access to meaningful activities, and regular contact with the outside world (Human Rights Watch).
The article; Children Behind Bars: The Global Overuse of Detention also draws attention to the fact that many of these children have received excessive or disproportionate sentences that violate international law, which requires that imprisonment of children be in “conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.”
A UN study expected to be finalized in 2017 promises to put international focus on the detention of children and hopefully result in more systematic monitoring of abusive practices, increased compliance with international standards, and a dramatic reduction in the number of children deprived of their liberty.