Prison and detention center conditions in Nigeria are harsh and life threatening, according to the 2020 country reports on human rights practices on Nigeria released by the United States Department of State.
The reported stated that prisoners and detainees in Nigeria are reportedly subjected to gross overcrowding, inadequate medical care, food and water shortages, as well as other absurdities.
Sometimes, the report says, some of these conditions resulted in deaths with the government sometimes carrying out extra-judicial killings of suspects outside the formal system.
Respecting the physical conditions of detainees, it said:
“Overcrowding was a significant problem. Although the total designed capacity of the country’s prisons was 50,153 inmates, as of October prison facilities held 64,817 prisoners.
“Approximately 74 percent of inmates were in pretrial detention or remanded. As of October there were 1,282 female inmates.
“Authorities sometimes held female and male prisoners together, especially in rural areas.
“Prison authorities sometimes held juvenile suspects with adults.
“Many of the 240 prisons were 70 to 80 years old and lacked basic facilities.
“Lack of potable water, inadequate sewage facilities, and overcrowding sometimes resulted in dangerous and unsanitary conditions.
“For example, in December 2019, according to press reports, five inmates awaiting trial at Ikoyi Prison were accidentally electrocuted in their cell, which held approximately 140 inmates despite a maximum capacity of 35.”
The report further noted that diseases and deaths are pervasive due to cramped, poorly ventilated prison facilities, which had chronic shortages of medical supplies.
It continues: “Inadequate medical treatment caused some prisoners to die from treatable illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.
“This situation was exacerbated with the arrival of COVID-19.
“In July the government released 7,813 prisoners, including some older than 60 or with health conditions, and others awaiting trial, in response to COVID-19.
“Although authorities attempted to isolate persons with communicable diseases, facilities often lacked adequate space, and inmates with these illnesses lived with the general prison population.
“There were no reliable statistics on the total number of prison deaths during the year.”
Also, prisoners and detainees were reportedly subjected to torture, exposure to heat and sun, and infrastructure deficiencies that led to inadequate sanitary conditions that results to death.
Besides the unhealthy living conditions of prisoners and detainees, guards and prison employees add to their woes.
The report said that authorities extorted inmates or levied fees on them to pay for food, prison maintenance, transport to routine court appointments, and release from prison.
“Female inmates in some cases faced the threat of rape,” it stressed.
It also noted that only prisoners with money or support from their families had sufficient food.
“Prison employees sometimes stole money provided for prisoners’ food.
“Poor inmates sometimes relied on handouts from others to survive.
“Prison employees, police, and other security force personnel sometimes denied inmates food and medical treatment to punish them or extort money.”
Meanwhile, some prisons had no facilities to care for pregnant women or nursing mothers.
“Although the law prohibits the imprisonment of children, minors – some of whom were born in prison – lived in the prisons.
“Generally, prison officials made few efforts to provide mental health services or other accommodations to prisoners with mental disabilities,” laments the report.