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UNODC takes COVID-19 sensitisation to correctional facilities in Nigeria

In a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in correctional facilities nationwide, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has begun sensitisation of inmates across the 244 facilities in Nigeria.

A statement issued in Abuja on Wednesday by Sylvester Atere, outreach and communications officer of UNODC, said that the sensitisation was in collaboration with the Nigerian Correctional Service.

According to him, the exercise has become imperative in view of the outbreak of coronavirus in some prisons around the world, including those in Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, South Africa, Turkey, the UK and the US.

He expressed grave concerns about the correctional facilities in Nigeria, especially with their overcrowded nature, stressing that the facilities were susceptible to the virus.

“As coronavirus outbreaks in prisons around the globe have shown, prisoners are particularly vulnerable to be infected. Once the virus has reached the inside of a detention facility, controlling it becomes difficult.

“Social distancing options are limited, in particular when correctional facilities are overcrowded. Also, prisoners due to their poor health profile are more likely to develop severe symptoms.

“Confirmed coronavirus cases among prisoners or prison officers have been reported in many countries and this number is almost certain to increase in the future,” he said.

The UN organ commended the federal government for the initiative to decongest the facilities by ordering the release of 2,600 inmates serving sentences for minor offences or whose prison terms were about to expire.

The UNODC however, noted that the spread of the virus was not the only challenge that could be witnessed in correctional facilities, stressing that misinformation was also another major problem.

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With particular reference to riots in some prisons across the World, the UN body said that wrong information could contribute to the problems faced by prisoners and prisons staff.

UNODC ssid that it was in a bid to prevent all the possible challenges that it had printed and handed over sensitisation materials in multiple languages to be distributed to all 244 correctional facilities in Nigeria.

“Recent prison riots across the globe have shown that being infected is not the only COVID-19 related risk prisoners and staff are facing.

“Misinformation and misconceptions about the virus cause stress that can lead to panic, aggression and eventually violence.

“Concerned by the vulnerability of inmates and complementing the laudable efforts of NCoS, UNODC has been cooperating with the service in the production of information materials for staff and inmates providing basic facts about the virus as well as how to protect oneself and others.

“The materials have been produced in English, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo and will be disseminated across the 244 custodial ventres in Nigeria,” Atere said.

According to him, the Comptroller-General of the Service, Ja’afaru Ahmed, while receiving the materials, said that the noble donation will assist the service in its prompt response to curtail the spread of the virus.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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