The National Human Rights Commission has called for revision of the nation’s legal system where some criminals are made to do community service instead of being thrown to prison.
This, according to the commission, would reduce prison congestion and further engender community growth.
Speaking at the Human Rights Monitoring Sensitization of Stakeholders on Decriminalization of Petty Offences in Maiduguri, the Executive Secretary of National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu, lamented that there were so many vulnerable people in detention camps, many detained for minor and petty offences which could have been avoided if stakeholders put in place other laws or alternative instead of putting offenders in prison.
Ojukwu, who was represented by by the Commission’s Director, Women, Children and Vulnerable Groups, said: “We felt that there was the need to talk to all those involved in the legal and judiciary processes, those in the legislature, judiciary and the executive like the police that actually made the arrest when this people come in conflict with the law.
“There is the need to take the criminal clout away from these petty offences like wandering, disobedience to parents, this will make these people not to be further victimized by way of imprisonment or detention.
“We need to put in place an environment that is more protective of the needs of these victims.
“Some of the people arrested for offences like wandering may be going about searching for food especially in insurgency area where people are prevented from going to farm. We need to tell ourselves that this is not just any time.
“We need to move away from penal system of detention to maybe reformatory system, it can be like way of other alternatives like community service. You can punish them with like sweeping a public place because the idea is for someone to realize he has done some wrong and not to punish that person really and for him to have a change of mind and be reformed in the society.
“We should move away from custodian sentences that will keep people away from the society and move towards reformatory sentences that will make people to pay back to the society like contributing to the development of the society and not to hold them back in facilities for petty offenses unless for very serious offences like murder and other dangerous offences where you need to hold people in facilities for they are dangerous to the society.”
He said: “I am delighted to ldo this advocacy to sensitise stakeholders on Decriminalization of petty offences in Borno state. This advocacy visit is one of the key components of the Project: Protection of Persons of Concern through Human Rights Monitoring that the Commission is implementing in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in selected LGAs of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. Another key component of the project is regular visits to detention facilities, camps, host and returns communities.”
Also speaking at the event, the Gender Desk Officer, Borno State Police Command, Mary Stephen, a Superintendent of Police, said the police would be happy if some of the advocacy of the NHRC was allowed for it will lead to decongestion of police station detention cells.
She said this would further lower the expenses on detainees, noting that a lot was spent on feeding and buying drugs for people in detention.