Britain will build a new wing at the Kirikiri Prison in Lagos so that it can transfer Nigerian prisoners there, the UK Government has announced.
It was reported that the new 112-bed wing, which would cost £700,000 ($973,000), would be compliant with the United Nations standards.
In a written statement to parliament, the British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, said tenders had been placed and a supplier identified to conduct the building work at Kirikiri. He did not name the supplier.
The project will be funded from Britain’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, which has an annual budget of more than one billion British pounds and aims to inaugurate projects that can help prevent conflicts and stabilise countries or regions.
The report added that it would make it easier for Britain to comply with a prisoner transfer agreement it signed with Nigeria in 2014.
Under that deal, eligible prisoners serving criminal sentences in Nigeria and Britain can be returned to complete their sentences in their respective countries. The British government did not indicate how many prisoners might be moved or when the project is likely to be completed.
Nigerian prisons – many of them built by the British colonisers more than 100 years ago – are severely overcrowded, leading to the spread of diseases. The government in Abuja has said it is developing a strategy to tackle the issue.
Britain’s own prison system has been showing signs of severe strain in recent years, with overcrowding, rising suicide rates and a growing problem with drug trafficking and other crimes within jails that were sometimes built in the Victorian era.
Kirikiri is not one of the oldest prisons in Nigeria but it does date back to colonial times.
Last month, the government said the prison in Port Harcourt, which was originally designed to hold 800 prisoners, currently has nearly 5,000. It said 3,700 of them had been awaiting trial for more than five years.