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Cablegate: Nigeria: Dhrf Grant Improves Prisoners' Plight In

VZCZCXRO8937
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHOS #0393 2771302
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031302Z OCT 08
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0211
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 9863
RUEHYD/AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE 0181
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEWMFD/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS LAGOS 000393

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/W

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: DHRF GRANT IMPROVES PRISONERS' PLIGHT IN
EKITI

1. (SBU) Summary: A March 12, 2008 workshop funded by a 2007
Democracy and Human Rights Fund (DHRF) grant, and coordinated
by the New Initiative for Social Development (NISD), brought
together representatives of the prisons service, police,
judges and other stakeholders to discuss issues related to
prisoners awaiting trial in Ekiti State. Participants agreed
that increasing legal aid to prisoners, speeding up
investigations of cases by police, and increasing the number
of judges available to hear cases would address many of the
problems. As a direct result of the workshop, NISD was able
to arrange bail and release for ten prisoners. End Summary.

2. (SBU) A March 12 workshop entitled "Stakeholders in Access
to Justice for Prisoners Awaiting Trial in Ekiti State",
coordinated by the New Initiative for Social Development
(NISD), brought together representatives of the prisons
service, police, judges and others to facilitate prisoner
case review. A 2007 Democracy and Human Rights Fund (DHRF)
grantee, NISD's Executive Director Abiodun Oyeleye told
PolOff, PolSpec and the Ambassador's Special Self Help
Coordinator (SSHC) March 12, that NISD wanted to bring
coherence to an overburdened prison and justice system.
Overpopulation is a significant problem for Nigerian prisons,
Oyeleye said, adding that the slow justice system and high
costs of trials exacerbate prison overcrowding. The
facilities are inadequate; juveniles are often kept with
adults and women are often kept with men; defense lawyers are
scarce and not well-trained; and there are not enough judges
to hear all the cases in a timely manner, Oyeleye concluded.

3. (SBU) Workshop objectives included: getting stakeholders
to understand the rights of prisoners; developing a better
understanding of the present condition of the prisons in
Ado-Ekiti; identifying and understanding factors linking
access to justice for prisoners awaiting trial; and making
appropriate suggestions and developing a work plan of action
to accelerate justice for prisoners awaiting trial. All
organizations handling prisoners, from the police who make
the initial arrest to the judge who finally rules on the
case, were represented at the workshop. Sam Anjorinap,
Assistant Controller for the Ekiti State Prisons, said that
although the Ado-Ekiti Prison was built by the British before
Nigeria's independence and designed to hold 200 inmates, it
now holds 290 prisoners. Anjorinap assured the stakeholders
that prison officials did their best to meet international
standards for the care of prisoners; other attendees
disagreed with this assessment. Foluke Adebayo, NISD,
defined what rights prisoners have while incarcerated, citing
Chapter Four of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic
of Nigeria, saying that if all the rights available to
prisoners were enforced, their nationwide living conditions
would improve. Oyeleye described the prison service in
Nigeria as one of the most neglected agencies of government
at both the federal and state levels, lacking funding, staff
and equipment.

4. (SBU) Stakeholders agreed on next steps including
increasing the number of visits to prisons by police
investigators to speak with suspects, increasing legal aid
available to prisoners, and lobbying for more judges in the
state to hear cases. The most important result of the
conference, Oyeleye said, was that the stakeholders had come
together to communicate honestly about the problem and all
understood each others' position better.

5. (SBU) April 14, Oyeleye told PolOff that, as a result of
this conference, NISD was able to arrange bail and release
for ten prisoners. Oyeleye told PolOff that information
shared at the conference, coupled with increased trust and
cooperation resulting from conference interactions, directly
contributed to NISD's ability to help these prisoners.

6. Special Self-Help/DHRF Coordinator Mary Hess contributed
to this cable.

7. This cable has been cleared by Embassy Abuja.

BLAIR

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