Miss Biu

We represented Miss Biu, for a capital crime she never committed after she had spent 2 years and 9 months awaiting trial.

Miss Biu was married off to a man 3 times her age when she was 13. As a child bride, she would often run away and would be dragged back to her husband’s house where she had to endure spousal rape, lashings and even the loss of her child. About 3 years after her marriage, she had an altercation with her rival which led her to run away from the house again. Before her return, her rival’s young daughter had fallen into an open well and died. Immediately Aisha returned, she was accused of killing her step-daughter and the local security men were summoned. Miss Biu was taken away to the city and handed over to the police who wrote a confessional statement for her and changed her age to that of an adult.

When we took up her case, she had spent 2 years and 9 months in prison. We applied for her bail which was granted by the court and a few months later we secured it based on lack of diligent prosecution. Today, Aisha is free again and we are working with her to get her life back on track.

In addition to our work on Access to Justice, we are building “Made in Corrections”, a social enterprise that empowers indigent women and young persons behind bars with skills that could be exchanged for value while they are in prison and after they leave.
In 2020, we partnered with the Embassy of Germany to produce 1470 reusable facemasks made by 10 women in prison as a preventive measure against COVID-19. The face masks were distributed for free to the prison community and persons in low income community.

Back on Track is our reformation and re-entry project that addresses the factors that leads to recidivism and equips former prison inmates with what they need to properly re-integrate into the society,

Through our work, Christopher who would have been given the death penalty for a crime he did not commit after awaiting trial for 6 years is a free man today.

Picked up by men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Christopher’s family had exhausted all his money on legal fees in spite of the prosecution not having anything against him. When we met him, he had been going to court for 2 years , no lawyer, no police counsel.

Today, Christopher volunteers with our organisation and does menial jobs to make ends meet. We are also working with him to get his life back on track.



It is often said that treasures are found in the darkest places. Such is the case with the incarcerated women of Suleja Custodial Center (Prison) who despite their incarcerated state have found a way to be a beacon of hope to underserved persons during the pandemic through the Ankara Face Mask Project.


As part of our empowerment behind bars project (Made in Corrections), we donated 4 brand new sewing machines and other tailoring equipment to the female ward of Suleja Custodial Center. For 3 weeks we helped to refine the sewing and tailoring skills of the inmates with the approval of the Controller.



The Ankara Face Mask Project is an initiative of Mrs Briggit Ory the German Ambasador to Nigeria as part of the Embassy’s response to COVID-19 in Nigeria in partnership with  Stewards of the Enviroment for Sustainable Change Initiative. Hope behind Bars Africa served as a field implementation partner in executing the project as 10 incarcerated women were paid the Nigerian Minimum Wage for making 138 face masks each. The face masks were branded, laundered and distributed for free to persons in underserved communities including all the inmates and officers of the prison. In total, 11 communities were reached and 5500 face masks distributed.



With support from Accountability Lab, Hope behind bars Africa had a successful capacity building training for Law students and young lawyers in the month of July, 2020.

The Capacity building training was a combination of virtual knowledge sharing sessions and on-site trainings, 15 deserving applicants were selected and the virtual sessions were open to interested persons. A total of 75 persons participated and the feedback on the insightfulness of the session were amazing.

Here are the highlights from the training program.

Day 1- We had Kulani Ngobeni from Stellenboch University and Rosemary Ochiwu from Nigerian Law School speak on the role of law students in criminal justice reforms.

Day 2- We had Bamisope Adeyanju a multi-award winning scholar from Columbia University speak on public interest lawyering.

Day 3- We had facilitators from the Cornell University Center on the Death Penalty and other Makwanyane Institute fellows speak on cross border issues relating to the death penalty. We had astute professor Sandra Babcock– Clinical Professor at Cornell, Paulina Lucio Maymon-JD student at American Washington University, Funke Adeoye-Makwanyane fellow and several others.

The feedback was amazing as the applicants opined that they learnt more than they had anticipated for from the sessions.



Date: Monday, 17th August 2020 

As of July 2020, 72.7% of incarcerated persons across Nigeria’s Correctional facilities are awaiting trial. This is so despite the decongestion activities occasioned by the pandemic carried out by the Federal government and various state governments within the past 4 months. With the restriction on visits to custodial centers to prevent the coronavirus from getting into Nigeria’s Correctional Facilities, the human rights of several indigent pre-trial detainees are violated as they are been denied access to justice.

Access to Justice for 1000 Pre-trial Detainees summarily called Justice for 1000 is an initiative of Flemer Project Initiative in partnership with Hope behind Bars Africa Initiative which is funded by Partners West Africa and The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (Hill). Flemer Project Initiative is an organization that helps indigent pretrial detainees conclude their matters in court as quickly as possible with the help of young volunteer lawyers, and uses tech to monitor the progress of representation provided by the lawyers. Hope behind Bars Africa is an organization with the mission of being a beacon of hope to the incarcerated using action, education, and advocacy. Both organizations have previously provided free legal representation to over 130 indigent pretrial detainees in Lagos and F.C.T, Abia, Edo, Niger, and Nasarawa state respectively.

The project has the following objectives:

– To facilitate access to justice for indigent pretrial detainees charged with minor offenses by supporting and incentivizing young lawyers who provide legal representation to such persons within the earliest possible time.  

– To work with all relevant stakeholders in the Criminal Justice System towards holistic decongestion of correctional facilities.

– To promote the implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and the Nigerian Correctional Service Act on provisions that relates to alternatives to incarceration and restorative justice practices in criminal matters.

The project is set to kick start in Lagos, Edo, Kano, Kaduna, Nasarawa, and F.C.T by August 2020.


For further information, kindly contact:  

Flemer Project Initiative                                     Hope behind Bars Africa Initiative

Email: flemerproject@gmail.com                               Email: letstalk@hopebehindbarsafrica.org

Telephone: +234-90338147                                     Telephone: +234-8057872764

Emergency Welfare Intervention for Prison Inmates

The world is currently battling the Corona Virus Pandemic. COVID-19 is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms show up in people within 14 days of exposure to the virus. The symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, muscle aches, sore throat, unexplained loss of taste or smell, Diarrhea and Headache. In rare cases, COVID-19 can lead to severe respiratory problems, kidney failure or death. Also, some patients may not show any such symptoms. Such patients may just be carriers of the virus, and can spread it to others. Diagnosis with only a physical examination may be difficult because mild cases of COVID-19 may appear similar to the flu or a bad cold.

Doubtless the covid19 season is a tough season for everyone. This is even more so for people in confined places like the Nigerian Correctional Facilities where the movement and social distancing is very limited because of space. This is why as is our mandate to reach out to inmates, on 11th May, Hope Behind Bars Africa Initiative with support from LEAP Africa, Citi bank and Dow Chemicals through the COVID19 Emergency Prison Fund took interventions to the prisons.

Our core message centres around protection and prevention of spread through prison decongestion as a means to #zerocovid19inprison. We also sensitised on social distancing, use of face masks, thorough hand washing and a proper hygiene system. We interacted with the prison officers and provided pictorial IEC materials donated by Youth rise Nigeria to enable them properly guide the inmates.

With the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the number of usual supports enjoyed by this prisons has greatly dwindled. We therefore supported inmates with palliatives which includes 5 bags of 50kg rice, -2 bags of garri, 1 bag of beans, 3 gallons of red oil, 2 bags of salt (50 pieces each), Half bag of sugar, 1 bag of Kulikuli, 1 and half carton of Milo,1 and half cartoon of Milk 1 cartoon of Maggi, 20 pieces of Minimie Chin Chin, 5 cartons of digestive biscuit, 10 cartoons of Viva detergent, 5 cartons of bathing soap, 12 Mosquito nets, 20 bathing buckets, 20 packs of toilet rolls, 2 and half packs of Sanitary pads, 1 cartoon of Dettol disinfectant, 36 pieces of Vaseline,  3 hand washing drums, 20 Hand sanitizers for officers, 20 face mask for officers to all 228  inmates  and officers of Old Keffi Correctional Facility.

Call For Application

Hope behind Bars Africa Initiative in partnership with Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide invites suitably qualified candidates to apply for its 1st Short Course on Capital Representation for Law Students and Young lawyers scheduled to take place in July 2020.


As at May 2020, 72.2% of people in correctional facilities in Nigeria are awaiting trial. Research indicates that indigent pre-trial detainees struggle to access legal representation as few attorneys specialize in criminal defense. Due to systemic failures and lack of resources innocent women and men risk been sentenced to death for offences they never committed. It is our belief that because the death penalty is an irreparable sanction, its imposition should only occur when the defendant is well-represented.

Course Overview

The course encourages its participants to approach death penalty representation strategically beginning from the first meeting with the client in prison. It includes topics that examine the steps involved in interviewing and counseling clients facing capital charges and how to elicit facts for mitigation investigation. Participants will be introduced to how issues of mental health and intellectual disability come to play in their client’s case.  Other presentations include International human rights law and how to approach UN treaty bodies, maximizing the law clinic experience to compete globally and a session that opens participants up to the possibilities in capital representation using the Malawi Capital Resentencing Project as a case study. Beyond the theoretical aspect, interested and selected participants will have the opportunity to learn empirically with the organization’s capital trial project.”


The faculty consists of practitioners from  Cornell University Center on Death Penalty Worldwide, the alumni of its Makwanyane Institute and its human rights partners combining both an academic analysis and a practical assessment of different human rights/death penalty situation faced by law clinic students and lawyers around the world.

Eligibility Criteria

Participants need to be :

  • Law students from 300 level to 500 level who have shown interest in pro bono work or are members of a law clinic. OR young lawyers  less than 3 years post call with demonstrable interest in human rights or criminal justice.
  • Be resident in Abuja, Nigeria.                

 *Female students and lawyers are strongly encouraged to apply.



On the 27th of April, 2020 we secured the release of 5 indigent young men who were inmates of Oko correctional Facility, Benin-city, Edo state. This comes under our Access to Justice Program and specifically Zero COVID 19 in prison decongestion project.

All 5 men had spent more time awaiting trial than the time they would have spent had they been convicted for the various crimes for which they were charged.

For Emmanuel Adan (pseudonym), the main offence he was charged with under S.428 of the criminal code law of Edo carried a fine of N40 but he had spent 5 months in prison already. The other 4 were arrested for wandering and breach of peace since February. An offence which carries a fine of 1 month imprisonment with no option of fine. One of them, had come from Ebonyi to visit a relative when he was arrested.

We wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of Edo state Hon. Justice Esther Edigin informing her about 8 of our cases prior to the decongestion exercise and during the exercise, our counsel Emmanuel Okorie who had been representing the defendants advocated for their release. Out of the 8 cases we submitted, 5 were released. This is addition to 8 other inmates released by the CJ. The CJ expressed her appreciation and commended us for partnering with the state to make the decongestion exercise smooth.

We supported the inmates with funds for their logistics and
immence plans have begun for their reintergration back to the society.

Over time, public health emergencies such as the corona virus outbreak poses huge socio-economic burden on individuals, families and nations. Evidence shows that vulnerable populations especially people in shielded environments such as correctional facilities are disproportionately affected in multiple ways.

This is the case for correctional facilities in Nigeria, a country with 70% of its prison population awaiting trial with little or non existent healthcare systems behind bars, congested cells and inmates living in unsanitary conditions.

As an organisation, we are advocating for the decongestion of Nigeria’s custodial centres  as a major step to fighting COVID 19 in prison. In addition, we launched the a COVID 19  ‘Emergency Welfare intervention for Prison Inmates’  This is to supplement the efforts of the government in catering for the prison population. This is of utmost importance at this moment considering that the religious organisations and NGOS who otherwise support the efforts of the government have been banned from prison visits.

We secured approval from the Comptroller of Prisons, Nasarawa state Command CP Felix to pilot the first phase of this project at the Keffi Custodial centre.

We call on the members of the public and organizations to join us as we take relief items to this very vulnerable population.

photo credit- Premier News


Photo credit – Human Rights Watch

It was reported on 31st March, 2020 that inmates of the Kaduna custodial center attempted a jail break due to fears that COVID -19 was in in their facility. This particular center has a holding capacity of 540 but currently holds 1200 – 1400 inmates at an average. Social distancing or self-isolation in an overcrowded environment is impossible as it is also the case in other custodial centers across the country.  Reports further stated that in other to curb the unrest, arms where fired at inmates which led to injury of two. This is a flagrant human rights violation that could have been avoided if the government has been more proactive.

We are fighting a common enemy of which only few nations of the world are exempted for now.  In other to completely combat the coronavirus, protection of the lives of vulnerable populations must be prioritized. The unsanitary conditions of our congested facilities, the non-existence of health care and the absence of specialized hands in prison would lead to fatal consequences. Faith based organizations, NGOS and individuals who support the welfare of inmates have been restricted from visits and major cities are on lockdown. This means malnutrition among inmates would be at an increase making them less immune to the virus infection.

 Furthermore, the risk of the virus been brought into the centers by staff who are daily commuting from the prisons to their communities is as high as a staff contracting it and spreading it in their communities especially as correctional staff offer essential services and  thus are not affected by any lockdown. Eventually, we would all suffer the consequences of a further delay in decongestion.

We hereby urge the presidency and the governors of all states to leverage on their powers under S.175 of the 1999 Constitution to decongest our prisons now. We recommend that the following set of inmates be released as releasing them would not lead to a surge in criminal activity or fuel social unrest at this time.Inmates over the age of 65 who have served at least one-third of their sentence. 

  1. Inmates over the age of 55 with underlying health conditions.
  2. Minor offenders with a sentence of less than three years.
  3. Minor offenders serving terms with an option of fine.
  4. All pregnant women awaiting trial should be granted bail with conditions that will ensure their attendance at trial when court sessions resumes.

We further recommend that part of the funds donated towards combating the COVID-19 should be directed towards the swift implementation of these measures and the measures spelled out in the Nigerian Correctional Service Strategic Preparedness Plan.

These measures could spare thousands of hospitalizations, relieve pressure on our nation’s already strained health system and, most importantly, save lives. The cost of decongestion far outweighs the cost of a jail break or a COVID-19 Outbreak. We urge the government to recognize the urgency at hand and take immediate action.

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Hope behind Bars Africa organizes knowledge sharing session On Death Penalty with Law Clinic Students

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In July 2019, our Executive Director and Senior Counsel, Funke Adeoye, joined 14 other Capital Defense lawyers in common law countries in Africa to be trained by world class capital defense attorneys, practitioners, mental health experts etc on ] best practices in representing  clients  facing the death penalty. The training was organised by Cornell University’s Center on Death Penalty Worldwide’s Makwanyane Institute, an institute named after the celebrated case of S v Makwanyane where capital punishment was abolished in South Africa.

As part of our Death Penalty project at Hope Behind Bars Africa, we organised our first knowledge sharing session for law clinic students of University of Abuja law school.

The aim of the training was to create awareness and introduce issues around death penalty to aspiring advocates and capital defenders as well as to create a forum for further engagement on the topic.

The time spent with the students was engaging and interactive and we look forward to more opportunities to create awareness on this global issue.