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Colonial Systems of Control

Criminal Justice in Nigeria

Viviane Saleh-Hanna

Publication Year: 2008

A pioneering book on prisons in West Africa, Colonial Systems of Control: Criminal Justice in Nigeria is the first comprehensive presentation of life inside a West African prison. Chapters by prisoners inside Kirikiri maximum security prison in Lagos, Nigeria are published alongside chapters by scholars and activists. While prisoners document the daily realities and struggles of life inside a Nigerian prison, scholar and human rights activist Viviane Saleh-Hanna provides historical, political, and academic contexts and analyses of the penal system in Nigeria. The European penal models and institutions imported to Nigeria during colonialism are exposed as intrinsically incoherent with the community-based conflict-resolution principles of most African social structures and justice models. This book presents the realities of imprisonment in Nigeria while contextualizing the colonial legacies that have resulted in the inhumane brutalities that are endured on a daily basis.

Published by: University of Ottawa Press

Series: Alternative Perspectives in Criminology


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pp. vii-xvi

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pp. xvii-xx

This book is the result of two years (2000-2002) spent working with prisoners in West Africa, and at the outset I extend deep solidarity to the people who have been kidnapped by the police and are involuntarily confined inside the Kirikiri medium and maximum security prisons. Weekly circles with prisoners in ...

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pp. xxi-xxvii

In August 2002 prison activists and scholars from the United States, Canada, Australia, and across the African continent travelled to Lagos, Nigeria, for the Tenth International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA X). Coordinated by Viviane Saleh-Hanna, then a staff member at Prisoners Rehabilitation and ...

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Chapter 1: Introduction: Colonial Systems of Control

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pp. 1-14

A long dirt road begins with the casual barrel of a gun, guarding a boundary, allowing selective access to outsiders and controlled exit to insiders. The few outsiders who are allowed to step past those guns and over the invisible, mysterious line in Kirikiri are faced with tall concrete walls inflicting visible boundaries and...

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To discuss penal coloniality in Nigeria, it is first necessary to present the context in which Nigeria exists today. Colonialism and the slave trade are major tenants in the recent history of the country. The past is not the past as privileged people choose to believe. The past is the foundation upon which contemporary ...

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Chapter 2: Penal Coloniality

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pp. 17-54

Because colonialism is such a highly complex and intrusive process, defining it and articulating the depths of its brutality have been a struggle as difficult as the sociopolitical fight for liberation from it. The definitions of colonialism presented in the 1950s continue to be highly relevant and accurate in capturing ...

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Chapter 3: An Evolution of the Penal System: Criminal Justice in Nigeria

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pp. 55-68

This chapter looks at the historical circumstances that came together to implement the Nigerian Prison Service and how they have affected its performance. What challenges has the institution been confronted with? The chapter also attempts to offer scenarios for the future. The first section looks at the justice ...

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Chapter 4: The Militarization of Nigerian Society

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pp. 69-118

The dominant wisdom, a year and a half after Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office as Nigeria's president in May 1999, is that the country is now a democracy. It is true, of course, that elections were held and that candidates vied for various positions on the platforms of political parties, as a consequence of which ...

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The following chapters were written by men forcibly confined in Kirikiri medium and maximum security prison in Lagos. All the authors were given the option to use pseudonyms or their real names in this book. They all chose to publish under the names given to them by their families. Many thought that their stories ...

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Chapter 5: Another Face of Slavery

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pp. 121-126

After the abolition of slavery and the slave trade towards the end of the eighteenth century, people around the world, particularly the black race, were gladdened in body and in mind because it marked the beginning of the end of a savage and barbaric era.But little did the people of Africa and Nigeria in particular know ...

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Chapter 6: My Nigerian Prison Experience

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pp. 127-130

I, Clever Akporherhe, stayed in Kirikin medium security prison for a period of one year and six months. On the day of my admission I became seriously sick. I complained to the officer or warden, but I was told that I would be taken to the clinic on Monday. I arrived on Friday. In reality I was never taken to the ...

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Chapter 7: My Story

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pp. 131-140

On April 24, 1994, I heard a knock on my office door. Before I could even say "come in/' two men entered. One of them was my boss; I tried to read the expression on his face, but it was blank, and I knew right away that I did not like the air around ...

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Chapter 8: A Tribute to Solidarity: My Oasis

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pp. 141-146

I regret that I don't have the words to express the depth of my gratitude; I would have started to write a heart-felt appreciation long overdue that put " golden tears" on my face even at a dreadful point of emotional and psychological breakdown, when I was eaten up by pessimism and despair, attracting insanity ...

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Chapter 9: June 14,2003

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pp. 147-148

Greetings, I am Mr. Igho Odibo, forty-two years of age, and am currently held in Kirikiri maximum security prison in Lagos, Nigeria. I was a student in Germany, studying computer assembly, before I contracted HIV/AIDS and was deported back to Nigeria in 1998. I was handed over to the Nigerian federal government ...

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Chapter 10: The System I Have Come to Know

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pp. 149-152

I was arrested on April 17,1992.1 was taken to the Lagos State Police Command in Ikeja, where I was hung like a monkey from the ceiling, with my hands holding up the rest of my body. This was done to me twice for long periods of time in one night, all in the name of "investigation." The second time they strung me ...

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Chapter 11: Man's Inhumanity to Man

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pp. 153-157

Game hunting is a jungle sport, but in this inside world known as maximum security prison men are still being hunted like game. It is a cruel, dehumanizing mechanism they call rehabilitation; it is a system that is nothing more than a refined method of slavery — all the ethics of enslavement are very much alive, mostly in the ...

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Chapter 12: Patriotism: Illusion or Reality?

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pp. 157-170

The epoch of political instability, chaos, ethnic rivalry, and the continued existence of colonial boundaries defining nations in West Africa gave birth to a period of armed insurgence and war in the West African countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone. This unrest culminated in military peacekeeping operations by many ...

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Penal colonialism is a concept that brings forth the perpetuation of colonialism in "former" European colonies through the contemporary existence and use of colonial legal and penal institutions. Colonialism implemented a form of social control that divided, dehumanized, degraded, and conquered those ...

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Chapter 13: Nigerian Penal Interactions

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pp. 173-222

The reflections presented in this chapter emerge from a daily journal I kept during my time as a community organizer and activist inside Nigerian prisons. The experiences I had were inundated with visual brutality, mental stimulation, and political conversation. In attempting to keep myself grounded, and in trying to grasp the larger picture, I found myself creating ...

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Chapter 14: Women's Rights behind Walls

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pp. 223-244

In the 1990s a global political consensus emerged that "women's rights" are also "human rights." In particular, the Beijing Women's Conference set forth an ambitious agenda, and activist- scholars in the global South began circulating ideas and papers on "putting women in the centre of analysis." I believe this focus ...

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Chapter 15: Nigerian Women in Prison: Hostages in Law

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pp. 245-267

As I was writing this chapter, news reached me that a Nigerian female journalist, Isioma Daniel, had been sentenced to death by a deputy governor of a self-proclaimed Islamic state in Nigeria for writing an article that Muslims consider blasphemous. The article, published by This Day newspaper, suggested that the ...

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Chapter 16: Protecting the Human Rights of People with Mental Health Disabilities in African Prisons

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pp. 267-291

Persons with mental illnesses often face unique difficulties in ensuring respect for their basic human rights, both in the community and in mental institutions. There is growing international recognition of this fact and a consensus across the criminal justice spectrum that something has gone painfully wrong: "the nation's [US] jails and prisons have become ...

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pp. 291-293

In addressing issues of colonialism and the continued implementation of colonial institutions in "former" European colonies in Africa, it is important to recognize that Africans have resisted these oppressions and continue to resist them. This ...

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Chapter 17: Women, Law, and Resistance in Northern Nigeria: Understanding the Inadequacies of Western Scholarship

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pp. 293-354

Colonialism in West Africa imposed foreign legal systems upon ethnically and structurally diverse regions that functioned in complex, precolonial, non-Western contexts. Colonial legal systems played a key role in the process of colonization because they defined and (il)legalized business transactions and codes ...

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Chapter 18: Fela Kuti's Wahala Music: Political Resistance through Song

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pp. 355-376

Music was used as a culturally appropriate tool of political resistance by Fela Kuti in Nigeria during an era of military regimes. Within the historical and spiritual contexts of Fela's work, the power of this tool is understood both as empowering for the people and as threatening to the state. This is true in ...

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This book presents information that illuminates the criminal and colonial foundations and structures of the penal system. In light of such information it is important to present information about African justice models, and bring forth efforts in African nations to rely less on penal colonial institutions and more on ...

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Chapter 19: Alternatives to Imprisonment: Community Service Orders in Africa

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pp. 379-394

The observations above are apt to describe penal institutions in most developing countries, Nigeria included. Indeed, they categorically sum up the problems that have bedevilled imprisonment and, by extension, entire criminal justice ...

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Chapter 20: The Igbo Indigenous Justice System

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pp. 395-416

This chapter examines the indigenous justice system of the Igbo of southeast Nigeria from restorative, transformative, and communitarian principles. The Igbo, like other societies in Africa/had a well-developed, efficient, and effective mechanism for maintaining law and order prior to colonialism. These social ...

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Chapter 21: Penal Abolitionist Theories and Ideologies

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pp. 417-456

Penal abolitionist academic discourse emerges through the critical criminological academic context, with subparadigmatic affiliations to radical criminology. The emergence of radical criminology occurred when critical criminology could no longer fully satisfy all the theories that emerged as critical of the social ...

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Chapter 22: The Tenth International Conference on Penal Abolition (ICOPA X)

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pp. 457-488

This book has presented the ideological and practical problems of criminal justice in Nigeria. Colonial impositions prevail in Africa, and will continue to do so as long as British colonial criminal justice systems continue to exist there. Having outlined the problems associated with the penal system in Nigeria, and ...


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pp. 489-504

E-ISBN-13: 9780776617497
E-ISBN-10: 0776617494
Print-ISBN-13: 9780776606668
Print-ISBN-10: 0776606662

Page Count: 534
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Alternative Perspectives in Criminology

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Prisoners -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Nigeria.
  • Alternatives to imprisonment -- Nigeria.
  • Women prisoners -- Civil rights. -- Nigeria.
  • Criminal justice, Administration of -- Nigeria.
  • Prisoners -- Civil rights -- Nigeria.
  • Nigeria -- Colonial influence.
  • Imprisonment -- Nigeria.
  • Women prisoners -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Nigeria.
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