Learned colleagues,

Pre-trial detention and overcrowding of many correctional centers (prisons) has remained a challenge in Nigeria’s criminal justice system. Pre trial detainees in Nigerian Correctional Centres accounts for about 70 per cent of inmates population.

Nigerian Correctional Service currently accepts all persons into their custody with valid warrants irrespective of whether their designated capacity of the correctional center (prisons) has been exceeded. This represents a clear breach of Section 12 (4-12) of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act (2019).

To check overcrowding in the Correctional Centres, S12(4)-(12) of The Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019, as an innovative provision has sought to correct the issue of overcrowding of correctional centres. This also includes a mechanism of activating an “early warning signal” by issuing notification to critical justice delivery stakeholders alerting them that the population of the correctional centers has exceeded or about to exceed the official designated capacity. The provision provides a window of 3 months for actions to be taken to address the overcrowding.

The section provides that:

Where the Custodial Centre has exceeded its capacity, the State Controller shall within a period not exceeding one week, notify the—
(a) Chief Judge of the State;
(b) the Attorney-General of the State;
(c) Prerogative of Mercy Committee;
(d) State Criminal Justice Committee; and
(e) any other relevant body. With regard to the Federal Capital Territory, the Controller shall notify the Attorney-General of the Federation and Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory.

Upon receipt of the notification referred to in subsection (4), the notified body shall, within a period not exceeding three months, take necessary steps to rectify overcrowding.

Without prejudice to subsection (4), the State Controller of Correctional Service in conjunction with the Superintendent shall have the power to reject more intakes of inmates where it is apparent that the Correctional Centre in question is filled to capacity.

A State Controller of Correctional Service shall be sanctioned if he fails to notify the relevant bodies when the Custodial Centre exceeds full capacity within the stipulated time frame as stated in subsection (4).

A Superintendent who fails or refuses to observe the procedure as stated in subsection (4) shall be sanctioned.

Despite the provisions of section 12(4) – (12), most custodial centers are in breach of the law and are currently interning above their carrying capacity.

PRAWA, with the support of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) is implementing an initiative titled “Petty Offenders Out of Custody Project”. A key aspect of this project aims to increase awareness and enhance the capacity of key stakeholders towards effective implementation of Section 12 (4-12) of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act (2019). One of the strategies PRAWA is adopting to ensure effective implementation of this project is to partner with SPIDEL towards creating awareness of SPIDEL members and other lawyers and justice sector stakeholders on section 12(4) – (12) and to undertake other relevant steps/interventions aimed at ensuring compliance of section 12(4-12) of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act (2019) and reduction of overcrowding of correctional centres and release of inmates (including awaiting trial inmates) from custody.

Proposed Activities:

To actualize the objective above, the following activities are proposed;

  1. Virtual training for NBA/SPIDEL members the Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019 with special focus on Section 12(4-12).
  2. Project Planning Meetings with the SPIDEL members that will be involved in the implementing of the project accross the country to discuss the project implementation strategies.
  3. Provision of seed fund to activate actions at the various States by SPIDEL representatives towards enhancing compliance of section 12(4-12) of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019. These may include advocacy visits, sensitization meetings, etc.

Expected Outcomes:

At the end of this project, it is expected that:

  1. There will be increased awareness of the provisions of section 12(4)-(12) of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019.
  2. Increased knowledge of the role of stakeholders in the implementation of the provisions of the Act.
  3. Increased compliance of Section 12(4-12) Nigerian Correctional Service Act 2019.
  4. Reduction in overcrowding of custodial centers.


This initiative will increase the awareness of Justice stakeholders on Section 12 (4-12) of the NCoS Act 2019, promote compliance on this as well as reduce overcrowding of correctional centers.

SPIDEL is expected to leverage on its network and professional expertise to engage relevant stakeholders towards effective implementation of the provisions of the Act in the project locations, while PRAWA with the support of OSIWA, will provide the resources to facilitate implementation. Every selected participant will be provided with logistic funds for the exercise.

Every participant will present a report that will show their findings and efforts towards the effective implemention of the Act.

The training for those that are interested on the project will take place on the 13th of February 2023 between the hours of 4 and 6pm.

The main resource persons include Mr. Femi Falana SAN, Dr. Uju Agomoh and Dr. Monday Ubani.

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