NIGERIA: ‘Decriminalization of Petty Offences will Curb Prison Congestion’

By Hameed Oyegbade, Oshogbo

The Deputy Director, Prison Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA), Mrs Ogechi Ogu has observed that decriminalization of petty offences in Nigeria is a practical step to address the challenge of prison congestion in the country. She said this at a strategic meeting organized by Lawyers Alert Nigeria, a nongovernmental organization championing the cause of the poor and defending human rights.

Ogu expressed worry over prison congestion in the country, saying that many of the prisoners got there for committing petty offences.

She also said most of the victims of petty offences are poor people who might have committed such offences while pursuing their means of livelihood. She added there is a need to raise awareness of punishable offences and enlighten citizens to know their rights.

Ogu also condemned the arbitrary arrests of indigent citizens in Abuja by security operatives and advised government agencies to be responsible and respect the dignity of Nigerian citizens when they are discharging their lawful duties.

The President of Lawyers Alert Nigeria, Mr Rommy Mom also frowned that arrest, humiliation and prosecution of poor people over petty offences was not necessary. At the meeting, the partners are drawn from Civil Society Organizations, professional bodies and actors in the justice delivery system formed a coalition christened Alliance for Decriminalization of Petty Offences. Mom commended the partners at the meeting for forming the alliance. He said the alliance was to ensure that all stakeholders work together as a team to achieve the goal. Mom said the vision of the coalition is to achieve decimalization of petty offences in Nigeria by employing research, advocacy, litigation and awareness creation as tools.

The partners’ Coalition of Lawyers for Human Rights, Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja branch, Lawyers Alert Nigeria, the Legal Aid Council, FIDA Nigeria and Dorothy Njemanze Foundation.

The Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja branch, Mr Folarin Aluko reviewed the concept of petty offences and noted that poor people have been the victims.

He said, “when a segment of the society become the target of a particular law, it’s an indication of inequality which also amounts to discrimination and should not be encouraged.” The NBA Chairman lamented that many citizens were languishing in prisons for committing petty offences.

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16 July, 2019

The Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty and Status is a coalition of organisations from across the world that advocate for the repeal of laws that target people based on poverty, status or for their activism.


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