Cats: A Novel Culinary Twist? - Examining the Treatment of Prisoners in Nigeria - The Top Society

Cats: A Novel Culinary Twist? – Examining the Treatment of Prisoners in Nigeria

By - Oluwafunmilayo Ogedengbe


The treatment of prisoners is a critical aspect of any justice system, reflecting a society’s commitment to human rights and rehabilitation. Nigeria, like many nations, faces significant challenges in its prison system, including overcrowding, inadequate resources, and human rights concerns.

The pressing matter that necessitated immediate attention was the report concerning prisoners allegedly being served cat meat in correctional facilities. However, the Federal Government has refuted these claims, asserting that there is no provision of cat meat in the meals served to inmates nationwide.

The Controller General of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), Haliru Nababa, addressed this issue in a statement. He stated that he became aware of a report circulating in the media that accused the Command of replacing beef with cat meat in its correctional facilities. He firmly asserted that the report is not only baseless but also untrue, describing it as a regrettable and malicious allegation.

The statement read;

“At best, it exposes the naivety of the author about the processes involved in food supply to inmates.

“For the avoidance of doubt, inmates’ ration is awarded to certified vendors who supply raw foodstuff to designated custodial centres.

“A ration committee constituted by the Controller-General comprising the officer in charge of the centre, a medical officer, welfare officer, ration clerk, chief warder, and other relevant professionals confirm the wholesomeness before recommendation for payment.

“The actual cooking is done by the inmates themselves under the supervision of professional caterers, and it is mandatory for designated officers to have a taste of the food before serving to the inmates. All these processes are documented for official references and, in a nutshell, show the seriousness attached to inmate feeding by the management of the Nigerian Correctional Service.

“Nigerian Correctional Service, therefore, wishes to advise the public to disregard the unfounded information as it remains a figment of the author’s imagination.

“The welfare of inmates remains sacrosanct and the goal of reformation towards safe reunion with the society, unwavering”, end of statement.

Even if this were true, what about the treatment of these inmates in general?

The fundamental human rights contained in the constitution of Nigeria are: the Right to Life, the Right to Dignity of Human Person. the Right to Personal Liberty, the Right to Fair Hearing, the Right to Private and Family Life. the Right to Freedom of Thought. Conscience and Religion, the Right to Freedom of Expression and the Press, the Rights to Peaceful Assembly and Association, the Right to Freedom of Movement, the Right to Freedom from Discrimination and then, the Right to Acquire and Own Immovable Property anywhere in Nigeria.

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These rights should never be violated by any person, including law enforcement agencies or agents in any part of Nigeria. But is this different for prisoners?

To gain a comprehensive perspective, we will examine the situation in Nigeria alongside examples from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway.

Prisoners Prisoners

1. Overcrowding and Living Conditions

Nigeria: Nigeria’s prison system has long grappled with severe overcrowding issues. Many prisons in the country operate at well over 100% capacity, leading to poor living conditions, inadequate ventilation, and limited access to basic amenities such as healthcare and sanitation.

United States: The United States also faces overcrowding in its prisons, with many facilities operating above their intended capacity. This situation can lead to violence, increased tensions among inmates, and limited access to rehabilitation programs.

United Kingdom: The United Kingdom has made efforts to address overcrowding by introducing alternatives to incarceration and focusing on rehabilitation. Despite these efforts, some prisons in the UK still experience overcrowding, which negatively impacts living conditions.

Norway: In contrast, Norway’s approach to incarceration prioritizes humane living conditions. Norwegian prisons are known for their emphasis on rehabilitation, with an environment that encourages personal growth and responsibility. Overcrowding is virtually non-existent in Norwegian prisons.

2. Healthcare and Rehabilitation

Nigeria: Access to healthcare in Nigerian prisons is often limited, with inadequate medical facilities and personnel. Rehabilitation programs are underfunded and not widely available, leading to high recidivism rates.

United States: Healthcare in U.S. prisons varies significantly from state to state, with some facilities providing better care than others. Rehabilitation programs also vary in quality, making successful reintegration into society a challenge for many inmates.

United Kingdom: The UK has made efforts to improve healthcare and rehabilitation services within its prisons, but challenges remain, including limited resources and access to mental health support.

Norway: Norwegian prisons prioritize rehabilitation, providing comprehensive healthcare, educational opportunities, and vocational training to inmates. This approach has been successful in reducing recidivism rates and improving reintegration into society.

3. Human Rights and Criminal Justice

Nigeria: Concerns have been raised about human rights abuses in Nigerian prisons, including reports of torture, extrajudicial killings, and lengthy pretrial detentions. These issues underscore the need for reform within the criminal justice system.

United States: The U.S. has faced criticism for its use of solitary confinement and the treatment of juveniles in adult facilities. Efforts to address these concerns are ongoing, with a focus on reforming sentencing laws and improving prison conditions.

United Kingdom: The UK has taken steps to address human rights issues in its prison system, including reducing the use of solitary confinement and improving conditions for vulnerable inmates.

Norway: Norway’s approach to criminal justice prioritizes the humane treatment of prisoners and adherence to international human rights standards. This has earned Norway recognition for its progressive approach to incarceration.

During the Buhari Administration, across the country, facilities of the Nigeria Correctional Service (formerly known as the Nigerian Prisons Service) were so decrepit, over-populated and in disrepair, all crying for attention. Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola said he was ready to work, to meet the focus of the federal government as set through the enactment of the the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019  and the name change.

Aregbesola at that time said the Government would invest in technology in order to implement the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019 (the Act) to solve the myriad of challenges facing the service.

The Correctional Services Act in Nigeria, formerly known as the Nigerian Prisons Service Act, was signed into law in 2019. This legislation represents a significant reform of the country’s prison system, aiming to improve the treatment and rehabilitation of inmates. Here are key points and advantages for prisoners outlined in the Correctional Services Act:

1. Change of Terminology: One significant change brought about by the Act is the shift in terminology from “prisons” to “correctional services,” signaling a move towards a more rehabilitative and less punitive approach.

2. Rehabilitation and Reintegration: The Act places a strong emphasis on the rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates into society, recognizing the importance of addressing the root causes of criminal behavior to reduce recidivism.

3. Non-Custodial Sentences: It introduces non-custodial sentences as alternatives to imprisonment for certain offenses. This includes options such as community service, fines, probation, and parole, which aim to reduce overcrowding in prisons.
4. Human Rights and Dignity: The Act upholds the human rights and dignity of inmates, prohibiting torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. It also promotes the welfare of women and children in correctional facilities.

5. Education and Skill Development: Inmates are provided with opportunities for education, vocational training, and skill development. This equips them with the tools necessary to secure employment upon release.

6. Healthcare: The Act mandates the provision of adequate healthcare services to inmates, addressing their medical needs while in custody.

7. Juvenile Offenders: Special provisions are made for the treatment and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders, ensuring they are not housed with adult inmates.

8. Review of Sentences: The Act allows for the review of sentences and the consideration of parole for eligible inmates, providing a pathway to early release for those who have demonstrated rehabilitation.

9. Independent Inspection and Monitoring: It establishes mechanisms for independent inspection and monitoring of correctional facilities to ensure compliance with standards and the protection of inmates’ rights.

10. Community Involvement: The Act encourages community involvement in the rehabilitation and reintegration process, fostering partnerships between correctional services and local communities.

To provide a clearer understanding, what benefits do inmates gain from the Correctional Services Act in Nigeria?

1. Improved Rehabilitation: Inmates are more likely to receive education and vocational training, reducing the likelihood of reoffending upon release.

2. Reduced Overcrowding: Non-custodial sentences help alleviate overcrowding in prisons, leading to better living conditions for those incarcerated.
3. Human Rights Protections: Inmates are protected from cruel and degrading treatment, ensuring their rights and dignity are respected.

4. Increased Opportunities: Inmates have access to opportunities for personal growth and skill development, increasing their chances of successful reintegration into society.

5. Juvenile Justice: The Act recognizes the unique needs of juvenile offenders and provides a framework for their rehabilitation and reintegration, giving them a chance to reform.

6. Accountability and Oversight: Independent inspection and monitoring mechanisms hold correctional services accountable for their treatment of inmates and the conditions in facilities.

The Correctional Services Act in Nigeria represents a significant step towards a more humane and effective approach to criminal justice and prisoner treatment, focusing on rehabilitation and reintegration while upholding human rights and dignity.

Nevertheless, despite the enactment of this Act, the incarceration of prisoners in Nigeria continues to be marred by several persistent challenges, including overcrowding, inadequate access to healthcare and rehabilitation, and human rights issues.

While other countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, face similar issues to varying degrees, Norway stands out as a model for humane prisoner treatment and rehabilitation.

The new Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, appears to have a challenging task ahead of him. He has expressed his commitment to implementing comprehensive reforms across various sectors, including the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) under his ministry, with the aim of enhancing their operational capabilities.

Tunji-Ojo has pledged to address the issue of overcrowding in NCoS custodial centers and to provide inmates with opportunities for rehabilitation and successful reintegration into society.

To improve prisoner treatment in Nigeria and other countries, it is essential to prioritize rehabilitation, address overcrowding, and uphold human rights standards. By learning from the successes of countries like Norway and implementing evidence-based practices, nations can work toward creating more just and humane prison systems.

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However, there is a level of skepticism regarding whether these promises from the Minister will be translated into concrete actions, especially given the recent controversy surrounding the alleged substitution of cat for beef in prison meals. Whether this is a mere rumor or a factual concern, the public remains cautious and watchful of the Minister’s actions in this regard.

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