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The Nigeria prisons service (NPS) was founded as an institution to correct social deviants, punish and reform criminals and to complement the processes of legal adjudication and law enforcement (FGN, 1990:3). However, the Nigeria prison service is far below the statutory expectations. The prisons are in a terrible shambles, while the congestion rate among the inmates especially those Awaiting Trial persons was so high that the population capacity of 30,000 inmates is hosting over 58,000 inmates, Eze (2010:114). Its infrastructures and logistics have experienced centuries of neglect that have made the prisons at this time to be a moral equivalent of hell, Ogundipe (2006:29). According to Oduyela (2003:1), “conditions prevalent in the Nigerian prisons in the present democratic dispensation are far from the recommendation of the standard Minimum Rules of the United Nations… the consequences are avoidable death and disabilities.

This state of the NPS was equally exacerbated by the dominant military leadership that Nigeria has experienced since independence. The military in its over two decades of political leadership saw the prisons as a punitive institution and thus did not give it any attention as to develop its infrastructures and conditions, Eze (2010:114). More so, Ogundipe (2006:29), noted that the military did periodically visit the prisons but only to make sure that those they had detained were not allowed any measure of comfort. Ogundipe further noted that, the population of inmates under the military became elastic in that the capacity of each prisons did not matter, all detainees had to be held in custody. And if the prisons became tortuous, it served the purpose of the military regime very well. Most of the detainees were held in squalid and congested cells without adequate medical care, food supplies or water and often with no stores at all, thus leading to an outbreak of diseases, environmental degradation, and an increased mortality rate among inmates, Eze (2013:114). The condition of prisons keepers were similar to that of the prisoners. Their salary structure was one of the worst in Africa. Most of the prison branch around the country did not have a single official moving vehicle while the very few that had, found it difficult to maintain them due to poor revenue allocations. The institution, prior to 2000, had no befitting independent corporate headquarters.

The prisons system in Nigeria is one of the most underdeveloped institutions in the criminal justice sector. No new prison has been constructed in more than forty years, Ojukwu & Briggs (2005) except the recent ones constructed by the state governments of Akwa’ibom and Bayelsa which is beyond the period of this study. That not withstanding, the prison population continued to grow. According to Eze (2013:115), “The prison Act of 1945 and accompanying regulations has not been reviewed in over 50 years. It is noteworthy that most of the persons in prison custody who are primarily the cause of the overcrowding are not convicts but ‘Awaiting Trial Persons’ (ATP)”. In affirmation, (Oloyede, 1998:5, Ojukwu and Briggs, 2005:2), provided that, a sampling of about 30 prisons across the country in 1998 revealed that in some of the prisons as much as 98% of the populations of those in prison custody were Awaiting Trial Persons (ATP). Presently, the situation has remained more or less the same. Eze (2003:115), further argued that, “the plight of juvenile offenders and female prisoners is much more than already described because most of the prisons were not built with females in mind, however, they host female inmates. Giving rise to cases of rape, pregnancies and extra-judicial killings”.

Ideally, prisons are reformative institutions, but the case of Nigeria is different. However, upon the country’s return to democratic rule, there were high hopes that the various reforms initiated between 2000 to 2012 will bring about the expected change in Nigerian prison system especially Enugu prison. Therefore the focus of the study is to assess the impact of the various reforms on the inmate of Enugu prison within the time frame of this study.


Prisons begin all over the world not as ultimate institutions for punishment and correction but initially as institutions for the custody of persons caught up in the criminal justice, awaiting trial or the execution of their punishment such as whipping, banishment and death (Rothman in Alemika, 1987) cited in Eze (2003:115).

However, in the mid-nineteenth century, the function of the prison as short-term custodial facility changed in Europe and North America to institutions for ensuring punishment, penitence and correction of the offenders, Eze (2003:116). By the time the first prison was built in Nigeria in 1872, the prison had assumed this new role. The establishment and growth of the prisons in Nigeria is backed by various status from the colonial period to the present. Among these status are the prisons ordinance of 1916; laws of Nigeria (1948 and 1958) and the prison Decree No. 9 of 1972, Eze (2003:116). A close study of colonial and post colonial law seem to emphasize the custodial functions of the prison while silent on correctional functions of the modern prison.

The Nigerian prison service is part of the Nigerian criminal justice system’s reform policies (Odekunle, 2007 in Eze, 2003:116) that is in line with the global trend to shift prisons services from a punitive and retributive penal system, to a reformatory and rehabilitative system whereby the welfare of offenders are given a pride of place. The major issues that affect offenders’ welfare is the respect for the rights of inmates despite their incarceration. Some of these violations include, provision or insufficient treatment for serious medical conditions, lack of adequate health education on disease control, denial of conjugal visits, denial of assess to education, and dearth of professional in the prison service.

To curtail the above challenges and position NPS to international standard, the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo in June 2001, initiated a reform roadmap proposed to review prison laws, train personnel, rehabilitate inmates and revitalize the prison system with the prison Reforms Programme Obioha (2011:101). Principal in the target of the reform programmes is the issue of ‘Awaiting Trial Persons (ATP)’ which Obasanjo described as inhuman. In that regard, these following working committees on prison reform with different mandates and terms of reference up to 2007 were constituted:

  • The National working Group on prison Reform and Decongestion 2005.
  • The inter-ministerial summit on the state of Demand inmates in Nigeria’s prisons 2005.
  • Presidential Committee on Prison Reform and Rehabilitation 2006.
  • The Presidential Commission on the Reform of the administration of Justice (PCRAJ) established 2006.
  • The committee on the Harmonization of Reports of Presidential Committee working on Justice Sector Reform 2007.

The agenda set for most of the committees and groups that were involved in the task of the Nigeria prisons reforms focused in all   or at least one of the following pressing areas of decadence, namely: congestion and overcrowding, physical/infrastructure facilities, treatment of inmates, logistic and transportation system and skills development.

The problem of this study is therefore how to identify which of the programme among the various reform programmes that impacted the prison inmates most particularly Enugu prison inmates. To progress further in this study, the following questions will pose as a guide for the research:

  1. Were the various Reform Committees (of the 2001 prison reform roadmap) able to come-up with a clear reform programmes for Nigerian Prison Service?
  2. Were the 2001 prison reform roadmap successfully implemented?
  3. Did they impact on the inmates, especially Enugu prison inmates?


The general objective of this study is to assess the impact of Nigerian Prison reforms on the prison inmates particularly Enugu prison. The specific objectives includes to:

  1. Verify if the various reform committees (of the 2001 prison reform roadmap) were able to come-up with clear reform programmes for Nigerian prison service.
  2. Ascertain if the 2001 prison reform roadmap were successfully implemented.
  • Find out if the reform programmes impacted positively on the prison inmates, particularly Enugu prison inmates.


The study have both theoretical and Empirical significance.

Theoretically, the study serves as an intellectual contribution to the ongoing research on the best approach to resolving the congestion challenges in Nigerian prison system. More so, teachers, and students of sociology, political science, public administration etc. will find this work to be of immense academic importance.

Empirically, civil and public servants, within the domain of Nigeria criminal justice system will find the work as a practical guide and reference point for future reform programmes for Nigerian prison service and the entire criminal justice system.


1.5.1  The Scope of the Study

The study is on Nigerian Prison Service (NPS) but indirectly connect the Nigeria criminal justice system because the three agencies (the police, court and prison) work interdependently. The study focused on the assessment of the prison management and reform programmes and its impact on the inmates, particularly Enugu prison inmates. The study span the period of 2000 to 2010. However, some unavoidable references beyond the period of study were made

1.5.2  Limitations of the Study

As a study on public institution, public institutions do not usually allow individuals access to their official data. Some times, when they allow one access to their data, it is the peripheral ones. In addition, access to information was strictly limited to the seven programmes contained in the 2001 reform roadmap. These challenges at the beginning of this research endevour were encountered.

However, the researcher was to able to access concrete data on Enugu prison, when he had access to the controller of Enugu prison (Christopher S. Ntewo) who provided vital documents that helped in completing this work.

Other limitations such as revenue and distance were rationally managed in order to actualize the purpose of the research.