As UN marks event in Lagos
By Ada Anioji
The legacy of Nelson Mandela in the arena of justice reform was re-enacted in Lagos, yesterday during an event to mark the United Nations-endorsed annual celebration of the legend, tagged Mandela Day.
At the event, the imperative of coordination and cooperation among agencies in the justice sector as a critical success factor in the implementation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, otherwise known as the ‘Nelson Mandela Rules,’ was stridently restated.
Indeed, this was the major resolution reached, after the discussion of the Nelson Mandela Rules with scores of Prison Officers drawn from the five prison facilities, including the female medium security prison, in Lagos State, as part of activities marking the 2016 Nelson Mandela International Day in Nigeria.
Organised by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos in collaboration with the South African Consulate General, the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) and the United Nations Association of Nigeria (UNAN), the dialogue generated a lot of interrogation and contributions by the assembled Prison Officers who noted that operational cooperation amongst the Police, the Prisons, the Judiciary and the Bar needed to be improved for any meaningful implementation of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules).
According to the participants, the rules which were presented by the Head of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Lagos Office, Mr Glen Prichard, would require an enabling environment and improved political will to implement in Nigeria.
Earlier,the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-moon has urged everyone to be inspired by Nelson Mandela as a lifelong example of someone who never ceased working to build a better world for all.
He made this call in his Day message presented by the Director of the United Nations Information Centre, Mr Ronald Kayanja. “We remember a man of quiet dignity and towering achievement who worked to build a better world for all”, the Secretary General said.
Welcoming the participants, the Controller of Prisons, Lagos State Command, Mr Olumide Tinuoye expressed the gratitude of the Nigeria Prisons Service to the United Nations for the training on the Nelson Mandela Rules. He observed that the Nigerian Prison Officers were reputed for their professionalism and treatment of prisoners with dignity. However, he added that more capacity building initiatives would be welcomed by his Command.
The Representative of the South African Consulate General, Mr Darkey in his opening remarks said, “we want to thank all the United Nations member states for renaming these rules after Nelson Mandela in 2015”. He stressed that the rules were therefore a testimony of his respect for human dignity and the fact that no person is irredeemable.
In his presentation, the Human Rights Adviser to the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) Nigeria, Dr Martin Ejidike called for more frequent visits of the Chief Judge to the prisons to see how awaiting trials inmates, who constitute 72% of total inmates could be freed.
The Executive Director of Crime Victims Foundation, Barrister Gloria Egbuji, in her remarks, however observed that the discussion of the Nelson Mandela Rules could not be complete without the gate keepers who are the police.