The Comptroller of Prisons in Ebonyi, Mr Columbus Omenuko, says 90 per cent of awaiting trial inmates in Nigerian prisons are youths.
Omenuko made this known in Abakaliki on Thursday while receiving members of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR).
The Comptroller said that the awaiting trial inmates were between the ages of 18 and 30.
He said that such a development was alarming and worrisome, especially with the congestions in the prison nationwide.
The comptroller, therefore, solicited the assistance of the committee to facilitate the passage of the Prison Bill in the National Assembly.
He declared: “The Prison Bill, if passed, will not only facilitate the reform process in the prisons but will also help resolve the age-long problem of prison congestions”.
He said 46 inmates of Abakaliki Prisons registered for this year’s WAEC and NECO examinations in readiness to enroll with the Nigerian Open University.
“This is part of the on-going reforms in the Nigeria prison system.
“Primary and Secondary schools were established in Abakaliki Prisons in conjunction with the State Government.
“You can’t believe it, there are several inmates who come into prison without primary education. But now all those are now a thing of the past as we now have functional primary and secondary schools.
“The schools are being financed by the State Government,” he said.
Omenuko explained that no fewer than 35 students passed the WAEC/NECO examinations last year.
“The 46 students we registered this year were made up of awaiting trial and convicted inmates.
“The gain is that by the time they leave the place, they would have acquired one certificate or another.”
Omenuko said that Abakaliki Prisons had capacity for only 381 bed spaces but that it presently houses 814 inmates with 92 to 95 per cent of them being awaiting trial inmates.
“In fact, this is our greatest challenge. ”
Earlier, the Chairman of Ebonyi chapter of CDHR, Mr David Okoro, had said the visit was to familiarise themselves with the condition of the prisons.
“The visit would enable us find a way to partner with the relevant stakeholders in criminal justice administration to find solutions to problematic areas,” he said (NAN)