*Calls for review of criminal laws
The Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) has again stressed that prostitution, hawking and other petty offences are only means of livelihood and should not be treated as criminal offences.
PRAWA called on government at all levels to reveiw the criminal laws and remove all provisions that criminalize activities which Nigerians, especially the poor rely on for sustainance.
Mrs. Ogechi Ogu, Deputy Director, PRAWA, who made this call on Thursday while briefing newsmen in Abuja, noted that some of these offences, like; being a wanderer, prostitution, failure to pay debt among others have been abolished since 2004, but are yet to be removed from the criminal code.
Ogu therefore urged the National Assembly to harmonize the criminal laws and ensure that none of the offences abolished in the past are found whithin the law books.
Ogu further noted that Nigerians have the right to food and shelter as enshrined in the constitution, but regrets that they are being disproportionatly affected by laws that are made in the Society, especially the poor people.
“These Nigerians rely on manual jobs in order to put food on their table, there is right to food and and right to shelter in the constitution and you cannot have all those right without working and suddenly we criminalize them”, she said.
The Director also regrets that government, after criminalising people’s sources of livelihood failed to provide alternatives.
According to her, government ought to provide social and economic security in terms of job opportunities or platform for people to work and earn their living.
“Government needs to be more conscious about making sure that citizens are able to have something to do and provide for themselves. If government feels that some activities of these persons are not good enough, provide them with alternative, provide them with things that they can do to earn a living for themselves.
Meanwhile, Ogu commended the Nigeria Correctional Service Act, which she said came handy and stopped persons from going into custodial facilities during the period of the COVID-19 lockdown.
She therefore urged government to ensure that the Act is implemented fully, especially now that there are no mobile courts, to sustain non custodial sentencing and decongest Nigerian custodial centres.
Michael Iseyare, Associate Programs/ Communications officer, PRAWA, also stressed that the implementation of the NCS Act and non-custodial sentencing will decongest Nigerian prisons which are often overcrowded across the country.
He recalled that in July, there was amnesty releases of 2,821 convicts while 2,058 awaiting trail inmates were also released.
This, he said is in addition to the 23,000 convicts sentenced to non custodial sentencing in the FCT alone, which would have congested prisons if sentenced to custodial centres.