Nigerian Prisons, the Courts and Imprisoned Terrorists
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The Nigerian courts and the prisons have in the last few months become intensively involved in terrorists being imported from our streets into the penal system. Nigeria, unlike the Euro-American or Western world does not have the enormous technological,
security and psychological experience to put a full handle on the 'war of terror'.
Yet, hundreds of reported arrested members of Boko Haram sect are continuously being tossed into our already overcrowded prisons. Certainly, everyone including the prison personnel, convicts and the persons awaiting trial as well as their respective families are likely to be increasingly preoccupied with safety concerns
Considering that both the domestic and foreign terrorists come into the prisons with endured religious, political and social influences, these detained and convicted terrorists currently under lock up, could make our prisons, recruiting grounds for more secret fanatical and dangerous plans. Is Nigeria even slightly prepared for this type of terror in closed settings like prisons?
The United States of America known for many of its prison and detention facilities has locations like undisclosed prisons, floating prisons(e.g. Ships), and foreign based secret prisons called 'black site'. But this not the case with Nigeria.
Even if Nigeria was to use the existing prisons to house terrorist convicts or suspects, what could be the danger of creating a swelling population of predominantly extremist Muslim units, and won't that lead to the feelings that Islam is under attack?
To ensure that our prisons are safe, how is the government preparing the prisons and the society that we are not locking up persons of a special religious group?
Since this whole Boko Haram challenge is a new test and fresh experience to us, we will need to create tough different interrogation procedures, special solitary units, and high tech security environment as many of these suspects are 'high-value' terrorism villains.
We will need to begin interrogations of these prisoners using specially trained prison staff and officers in order to yield useful psychological and social information that could lead to the unraveling of their unique tactics, and to future terrorist plots.
As we know the Nigerian prisons are use to non-ordinary offenders unlike Boko Haram terrorists known for their strong dogmatic beliefs and religious motivations.
So with many of them fully radicalized as part of their personal ideals, aspirations and experience, we must begin to put in place intelligence-based , psychological and rehabilitative processes and programs to help de-radicalize them from their violent prone mental, emotional, social behaviors. This will cost money but it is worth it.
Now is the time for the government to provide a penal environment that could fully ensure the safety, security and orderly operation of our prison facilities with the protection of prison personnel, their families and the protection of the public in mind.
In order to ensure tight surveillance and to keep a close watch on the terrorists' movements in our present prisons, we need to also prepare our courtrooms for the trial of terror suspects and ensuring the safety of the presiding judges, prosecutors and witnesses as well as their families.
The current anti-terrorism legislation has called for the imprisonment of terrorist convicts as long as 20 years. But we have a problem; the 2011 Anti-Terrorism Act is mainly preventive and prohibitive in terms of its potency as it does not have a full-blown legislative aspect in regards to the full handling of terror suspects or convicts in the prison system.
Prisons by all measures plays a much bigger big role in the war on terrorism, therefore the nation must be protected by getting the penal system technologically and financially prepared in regards to the special training of officers. And assist with preparing existing prisons for terrorist attacks.
Let us believe that very soon we will see the set-up of high-security prisons with appropriate infrastructure and rehabilitative programs in the model of prisons in America or other security conscious nations.
John Egbeazien Oshodi, Ph.D., is the Secretary-General of the Nigeria Psychological Association (NPA), Abuja. http://us.mc394.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=