Friday, 10 July 2009

Britain to build prison in Nigeria for Nigerians serving sentences in the UK

Jos Prison, Nigeria

I saw this article and I was so moved I just had to say something. Apparently the UK government intends to use taxpayers money to build a comfortable prison in Nigeria, a prison which meets UK standards, so that Nigerians serving prison sentences in the UK may be repatriated to their home country to serve their sentences. The case that the government has made for this prison is that the current conditions in all Nigerian prisons are so appalling that prisoners of Nigerian origin in the UK have been able successfully to challenge their removal to Nigeria on human rights grounds, claiming that sending them to prison in Nigeria will violate their human rights.

Well, this is a perfectly legitimate argument, since the European Convention on Human Rights and the UK's Human Rights Act both guarantee certain inalienable rights to every single individual who is present within the European Union, irrespective of whether he is an illegal immigrant or a foreign prisoner. The right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment is non-negotiable and absolutely guaranteed. It has been successfully argued that these individuals if returned to Nigeria to serve their sentences, will suffer a violation of their human rights. Human rights groups have consistently asserted that conditions in Nigerian prisons are so abominable that the right to the freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment of these individuals cannot be guaranteed. And because these people are currently within the European Union, the European human rights legislation applies to them.

The UK government however seems to believe that the inordinately large number of Nigerians in the UK prison system has caused overcrowding in the prisons and the prisons' resources are stretched. And they believe that building/refurbishing the prison in Nigeria will in the long run be the cost effective option. I do not dispute that there are many Nigerians in prisons here. The majority of them are serving prison sentences after being convicted of the offence of using fake documents (false instruments) to obtain employment, an offence for which a mandatory custodial sentence has recently been introduced. It has even been suggested that some prisoners have been offered financial incentives if they agreed to return home voluntarily.

My thinking was that persons sentenced to terms of imprisonment were required to serve their sentences and then they were deported, or at least the process for deportation was commenced after the term of the prison sentence has elapsed. But it appears that what the UK government is arguing for, is that rather than them serving their prison sentences in the UK, they should be removed to Nigeria immediately upon conviction and sentencing by the courts to serve out their prison sentences in Nigeria. If lawyers then invoked the human rights legislation, the UK government will argue in reply that in fact there exists a prison in Nigeria that meets UK standards and that therefore the human rights of the offender will not be infringed.

But the point is that once this prisoner has left the UK, he is outside the European Union and the human rights laws applicable in Europe cease immediately to apply to him. And the UK has no control whatsoever over the way in which the Nigerian authorities choose to treat the country's prison inmates, regardless of the existence in that country of a posh prison built by the British government. My mind tells me that the Nigerian government is more likely than not to use the prison as a place to detain political dissidents and opponents, rather than as a venue for repatriated Nigerian prisoners from Britain. And that therefore any returned prisoner will serve his sentence in a regular Nigerian prison and this scheme will be a complete failure.

2 comments:

Lee Beth said...

Wow what a fascinating blog. Just checking out new ones and came across yours. Feel free to come check out my little artsy blog if you'd like.

Anengiyefa said...

Hi Lee Beth, thanks for visitng. I've been to yours too and being an art lover myself, I thought it quite astounding. Keep up the good work. xxx