Abuja - The Minister of Interior, Mr Abba Moro, said on Wednesday in Abuja that 38 000 of the 54 000 prison inmates across the country were awaiting trial.
Moro disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents on the outcome of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan at the State House.
``As at last count, as I told you, out of the 54 000 prisoners that we have across the country, 38 000 of them are awaiting trial and only about 16 000 have actually been convicted.
``Those who have been convicted, are attending regular courses; some of them are in the open university system, some are writing examinations, others have registered for JAMB, while some have obtained their First School Leaving Certificate.
``These are part of the rehabilitation processes that will make them effectively integrated into the society,’’ he said
The minister identified obsolete prison service laws as one of the major reasons for such a high number of awaiting trial inmates.
He said the country was still operating the 1963 Prison Service Acts and Immigration Acts ``which are outdated when juxtapose against the trend in prison and immigration services across the globe’’.
Moro called on the National Assembly to fast track the passage of the bills on the review of the respective Acts to address the challenges.
Specifically, he said the new Prison Service Bill if passed into law would address ``some of the teething problems that have to do with nature of crimes and punishments’’.
Moro said there was provision in the bill that would enable accused persons to have easy access to lawyers as part of the efforts being made to facilitate the dispensation of justice.
``The bill proposes some measure of punishment aside from incarceration, such as community service, depending on the severity of the offence,’’ he said, adding that the ministry had embarked on various expansion projects aimed at decongesting the prisons.
The minister also said that the ministry had made some proposals to Council to introduce the e-prison system ``which is a new technology in prison management’’.
Specifically, he said the e-prison system would introduce some levels of ICT technology and biometric recording of the inmates using their finger prints.
He said the new system would also include perimeter fencing of prisons with modern gadgets that would trigger alert in the event of jail break.
Moro maintained that the media report on the killing of the seven foreign hostages abducted in Bauchi had not been confirmed.
He appealed to Nigerians and the international community to remain calm and wait for the outcome of the investigations being carried out by the Federal Government aimed at confirming the true position of things.
``I still feel that Nigeria owes the international community a duty to tell them the true position of things.
``I feel it is premature to engage in speculations and jump into the wrong conclusions,’’ Moro said.
The minister said government had achieved success in the e-passport system and that this had made it possible for applicants to obtain international passport under 24 hours.
Moro, who briefed the press alongside the ministers of Information, Mr Labaran Maku and Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ms Ama Pepple, said the council meeting was partly devoted to reviewing the performance of the Ministry of Interior in 2012.