Concern Rises Over 15 Babies Held In Abia Prison.

r77 Nigeria-Prison

The fate of 15 babies held with their mothers at the Federal Prisons Abia/Umuahia has become a source of concern following fears that their future could be jeopardised if they are nursed and raised in a harsh prison environment.
The National Coordinator of Child Rights Advancement and Protection Initiatives (CRAPI) Ozioma Patsy Onyenweaku raised the alarm yesterday at a press conference in Umuahia, stating that allowing babies to grow up in prison “will deny our society of sleep in the near future”.
“Our laws forbid babies being kept in prison with the mother. The law equally frowns on pregnant and nursing mothers being kept in prison.
“The law provides for the establishment of a special family-like centres for this class of women who are in conflict with the law, and who must necessarily be incarcerated,” she said.
According to her, the number of “baby prisoners” has been on the rise “because pregnant women and nursing mothers are becoming the fastest growing segment of female prisoners (with) most of the pregnant women being thrown into prison with pregnancies as early as one month”.
Aside from the babies being born in prison, she explained that another category of baby prisoners has emerged because their mothers had them just before incarceration.
Statistics from the Umuahia prison showed that the youngest, who was circumcised last week, is merely 10 days old while the oldest is two years and three months.
The comptroller of prisons Abia State, Ukwuori Kalu, declined to speak on the issue of baby prisoners when contacted by journalists, saying that she was misquoted in the past when she spoke to a journalist.
But the child rights activist painted a pathetic plight on the babies in the prison, saying: “These babies and their mothers are left at the mercy of the irregular visitors with donations for the prisons. No facilities, no toys and no playground for the babies.”
“A mother’s imprisonment affects the baby before, during, and after birth,” she said, adding that the deplorable condition of the prison puts the pregnant woman under distress and “impacts negatively on the unborn baby and threatens the survival, physical and emotional development of the child”.
“We want a stop to it,” Kalu stated, warning that “if action is not taken to prevent this we are putting ourselves in danger” as the baby inmates could grow up to terrorise the society.The child rights activist wondered why Nigeria as a nation was allowing the crucial period of children’s lives to be spent and wasted in prison, thereby compromising their chances of growing up into responsible citizens.
She argued that those who grow up to become terrorists or rebels are “definitely” those who have something against the society, those who feel they have a score to settle with the society, deprived by the actions and inactions of the society, and as such “they harden up to pay the society back in its own coin”.
To save the baby inmates from a gloomy future, the national coordinator of CRAPI called on the chief judge of Abia State and the Ministry of Women Affairs to get the innocent babies out of prison while efficient and effective family courts should be created to handle cases involving children.
“Clear application and enforcement of the Child Rights Act will definitely address the issue of babies being born in prison and it shall be disappointing where the state becomes a violator of the rights of he child,” she said.

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