The United Kingdom has moved one more step forward in influencing the reconditioning of Nigerian prisons as it has assured of her preparedness to provide fund for rehabilitation of Nigerian prisons. On Friday, UK signed a pact that will allow the transfer of prisoners between the two countries.
British successive Ministers , frantically searching for a solution to the chronic prison overcrowding problems since 2005 first dropped the indication in 2009 with hot debates in the parliament as UK was facing the dilemma of prison over congestion and soaring cost of prisoners maintenance.
The idea of prison transfer had been suggested to Jamaica but the plan was not taking off due to objection as the plan then failed to materialise
Another indication on the proposed agreement came to light in October 2013, when the plan for an agreement was re-echoed by both governments.
On Friday, Nigeria and the United Kingdom signed the binding agreement which would compulsorily provide for the transfer of prisoners between the two States. This Agreement was one of the key objectives of the communiqué issued by President Jonathan and Prime Minister Cameron following their meeting in 2011.
The Agreement will allow Nigerians who commit crimes in the United Kingdom, and Britons who commit crimes in Nigeria, to serve their sentences in their own country, where they can be properly prepared for release into the community in which they will live following their release.
Both the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the United Kingdom have in place prisoner transfer arrangements with a number of other countries. The signature of this Agreement builds on the already close links between the two countries in the criminal justice field. A special joint committee of officials will oversee the implementation of this Agreement. It is expected that the first prisoners will be transferred under this Agreement before the end of 2014.
Jeremy Wright, the British Justice Minister said:
Removing foreign national offenders is a key priority for the British Government and the prisoner transfer agreement I signed this morning with the Nigerian Attorney-General plays a significant role in supporting this. Both the United Kingdom and Nigeria have prisoner transfer arrangements with other countries and it is right that our two countries, which have such strong ties and shared interests, should develop our own arrangements. I strongly believe that this Agreement will have significant benefits for both our countries.
The British government has also promised to give the country one million pounds (about N280 million) to assist in the comprehensive reformation of Nigerian prisons for the comfort of the inmates.
UK minister of justice Mr Jeremy Wright revealed this while fielding questions with newsmen when he visited the minister of interior, Comrade Abba Moro, to finalise the process of prisoner exchange between Britain and Nigeria.
Wright further said that under the agreement which he signed, several Nigerians in British prisons including Ibori, who still have more than six months to stay in prison, would be repatriated to complete their jail terms in the country.
Earlier, he told the minister the importance of the two countries respecting the agreement, adding that there is need for the state of prisons in Nigeria to be improved considerably.
Wright had led a five-man delegation to the ministry, remarking that even though the prisoners were paying for the crimes they may have committed, conditions in detention centres where they are staying should be made humane and accommodating enough for them.
The British minister of justice thanked the federal government of Nigeria and the minister of interior for making it possible for the two countries to finalise the agreement that would lead to the mutual exchange of prisoners, assuring that every effort would be made to foster the cordial relationship between Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
“We believe that the agreement today is a positive step in furthering our mutual relationship and partnership with Nigeria for prisoner exchange,” he said.