The Punch Newspaper report referred to earlier also stated, ‘When the children are a year and half old (18 months), the mothers have to let them go. That is the regulation. Families of the inmates take the children away and take care of them till the mother gets out,” spokesperson of the Nigerian Prisons Service in Lagos, Mr. Biyi Jeje, had explained to Saturday PUNCH.’ The regulation being referred to here is found in the Prison Act as follows: ‘No person may be admitted into a prison unless accompanied by a warrant of arrest, a warrant or order of detention, or a warrant of conviction or commitment…Provided always that the child of a female prisoner may be admitted into a prison with its mother if it is at the breast and less than eighteen months old.’
Some reports however speculate that there are children, who live in the Nigerian prisons beyond the stipulated 18 months. The Vanguard Newspaper in a report, titled, ‘Highlighting the plight of pregnant women and babies in Nigerian prisons’ published on September 26, 2013 stated,‘…yet in another case being handled by Avocats sans Frontières France in Katsina state, a female detainee has been on death row alongside her infant child for two years.’
The state of the children in Nigerian prisons is depicted in a report, titled, ‘Paying for the sins of parents in Nigerian prisons,’ Published in Daily Times online (www.dailytimes.com.ng) on November 6, 2012, it was sadly revealed as follows: Children of prison inmates in Nigeria have been denied their fundamental human rights as they are unable to access basic amenities. Joy Bob-Manuel, the Director-General of the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, on Tuesday in Abuja, said some of the children of prison inmates on death row live within the prisons and are restricted from receiving visitors, they don’t go to school and they lack basic amenities.’ The report continues, ‘speaking on the same issue, Grace Dashiel, the National President, Association of Orphans and Vulnerable Children, said that some children born under prison conditions died in the prisons before help from concerned groups could reach them.’ The Vanguard Newspaper report, cited in the immediate paragraph above also stated, ‘it is an anomaly for children to be incarcerated alongside their mothers in unsanitary conditions given the deplorable and unhygienic conditions of detention facilities in Nigerian prisons. These children are at best denied the chances of having a normal childhood with no provision by the government to ensure that those within school age have access to education.’
Now, the strong point of those who support the practice that children should stay with their parents in prison is that it enables the parents, particularly mothers and child to bond. While this appears to make some sense, one must consider the ultimate impact of children living in prison with their parents. The Guardian report, titled, ‘Tales from the Nigerian prisons you’ve never heard,’ published on July 30 & 31, 2012, stated, ‘A PRACTISING psychologist, Dr. Robinson Okosun believes that the act of incarcerating a child with the mother only creates a new generation of criminals. While he agrees that the intention of not wanting to separate a mother and child is good, the effect though is far from good because this creates a taint that will affect the child for life…The child’s performance in life’s affairs will be faced with several mental challenges, which will lead to something similar to a split personality with positive and negative sides. If not well managed, a confused thinking emerges and stress levels heighten in him.’
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