The destiny of 15 babies held with their mothers at the federal prisons Umuahia has become a source of a growing concern among child rights activists.
This Day reports that Ozioma Patsy Onyenweaku, the national coordinator of Child Rights Advancement and Protection Initiatives (CRAPI), raised the alarm at a press conference on August 11, Tuesday, in Umuahia.
Onyenweaku warned that the future of the country could be jeopardized if babies were nursed and raised in prisons.
“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 special family-like centres for this class of women who are in conflict with the law, and who must necessarily be incarcerated,” she said.
Onyenweaku noted that the number of “baby prisoners” has increased “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”.
CRAPI coordinator added that another category of baby prisoners emerged because their mothers had them just before incarceration.
According to statistics from the Umuahia prison, the youngest, who was circumcised last week, is 10 days old while the oldest is two years and three months.
“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. 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,” child rights activist lamented.
Onyenweaku wondered why Nigeria was allowing the crucial period of children’s lives to be spent and wasted in prison, adding that such babies could grow up to terrorise the society.
CRAPI national coordinator appealed to the chief judge of Abia state and the ministry of women affairs to get the innocent babies out of prison adding that effective family courts should be created to handle cases involving children.
Meanwhile, Ukwuori Kalu, the comptroller of prisons in Abia state, refused to comment on the issue of baby prisoners, saying that she was misquoted in the past.