Lagos State has the highest number of prisoners in Nigeria, 7,396 out of the national total of 68,686.
The state, which is the commercial hub of Nigeria, also leads in prisons congestion. It has a capacity for 3,927 prisoners, indicating that it is almost 100 per cent overfilled, a trend that President Muhammadu Buhari has called a national scandal.
According to a new data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) today, Lagos is closely followed by Rivers and Kano States with 4,424 and 4,183 prison inmates population. Kano can conveniently accommodate just 2,116 prisoners.
Rivers State has one of the worst prisoner congestion ratio as it can take only 1,354, compared to the 4,183 prisoners it accommodates at present.
Bayelsa and Ekiti States have the lowest numbers of prisoners, with 444 and 585 as at last year. Even then the two states also failed to buck the trend as their cells can accommodate only 200 and 400 prisoners.
The NBS Prison Statistics catalogued Prison Population by Total Detainees, Prison Capacity and Number of Un-sentenced Detainees by State and Year and Prison Inmate Population by Gender from 2011 to 2016.
The study showed a rise in prison population from 65,030 in 2015 to 68,686 last year.
It also showed a rise in over-population of the prisons. In 2015, the prisons capacity was 49,965. But the prisoners were 65,033. In 2016, the capacity rose to 50,803, as the inmates also increased to 68,686.
More revealing, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) is the gender skewness of the population: There are far more men in prisons than women. While male inmates last year were 67,329, the women were 1,357.
The gender ratio in 2015 was similar, 63,668 to 1,357.
In terms of the beliefs of the inmates, there were more Muslims kept in jail between 2015 and 2016, more than Christians.
NBS data shows that 59,940 Christians were incarcerated in the two year period, in contrast with 71,402 Muslims. The number of traditionalists, atheists and others was 11,506.
Two weeks ago, President Buhari expressed concern over the state of the nation’s prisons, noting that it is a national scandal that many prisons are overcrowded by 90 per cent.
He spoke when he hosted a delegation of the judicial arm of government led by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
“We need a new approach to prison congestion. It is a national scandal that many prisons are overcrowded by 90 per cent, ” he said.
He stressed the need to put in place urgent new measures to speedily decongest the prisons across the country.
He stated that the call had become imperative not only in the interest of justice but to save the cost of prisons’ maintenance and boost the welfare of prisoners.