Senate seeks trial of prison officials over illegal remand of children

The Senate yesterday directed the Federal Ministry of Justice to prosecute any official of the Correctional Service found complicit in the unlawful incarceration of minors in the country.

The Senate yesterday directed the Federal Ministry of Justice to prosecute any official of the Correctional Service found complicit in the unlawful incarceration of minors in the country.

It also directed its Committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters and Interior to investigate the circumstances surrounding the admission of minors into Borstal facilities.

The Senate further urged State Houses of Assembly to domesticate the Child Rights Act 2003 and   implored  relevant authorities to ensure its implementation

These resolutions of the Senate followed the consideration of a motion titled: “The need to investigate admission of inmates and operations of Borstal facilities across Nigeria”  sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu.

In her lead debate, Senator Tinubu noted  Borstal Institutions’ highlighted attempts to keep delinquents out of prison and away from adult offenders to avoid molestation and negative influence that could make them become repeat offenders.

According to her, there are only three Borstal facilities in Nigeria located in Kaduna, Abeokuta and Ilorin.

Tinubu recalled that the  Borstal facilities were established to admit only male juvenile delinquents between ages 16 and 21 as at the day of conviction.

She further observed that “Clause 9 of the Borstal Institutions and Remand Centres Act – Subsidiary Legislation, 1962 provides that delinquents are to be admitted into the institution with a warrant from the court, committing them to a sentence of borstal training; and provides for three months observation period of the inmates.”

Tinubu added: “Clause 123 of the Subsidiary Legislation also provides that Courts of competent jurisdiction may pending determination of suitability for Borstal training, order remand or detention in a Remand Centre or Borstal, provided that persons are not less than sixteen years but under twenty-one years of age.”

Citing a publication titled, ‘Inside Ilorin Borstal Home where deviant children learn a life lesson the hard way, authored by Temitope Mustapha, and published by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) in September 2020,   Tinubu stated that the report alluded to young persons being held at the facility without any conviction or directive of the courts.

She expressed concern that the publication also alluded to a statement by officials of the Institute stating that none of the said minors and young persons is ‘in conflict with the law.”.

According to her, “some of these young persons were said to have been admitted to the facility when they were younger than 16 years, the minimum age prescribed by law.

She also cited a report titled ‘Not yet Uhuru: Dilemma of children freed from Borstal Facility,’ in which the author documented the experiences of teenagers tricked into the facility, under the guise that they were being sent off to boarding school.”.

Tinubu pointed out that their unjustifiable incarceration without due process was in breach of the Borstal Institutions Act, the Child Rights Act and the Fundamental Human Rights of every Nigerian, as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.

She recalled that the Federal Ministry of Justice, in collaboration with UNICEF,  released 122 inmates, with the UN agency setting up a reintegration plan to ensure their smooth transition into society.

She observed that going by these numbers, there are young Nigerians still being held against their will, even though they have not committed any crimes known to the law.

Tinubu expressed worry that unless this is looked into and the system reformed, Nigeria may be institutionalising the ‘reaction of criminals’.

Senators in their contributions supported the motion and approved its prayers.

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