British Conservative MP Simon Hollobone revealed during a debate at Westminster Hall on Tuesday 29 November that that Nigeria was number 10 in the top 10 list of foreign national offenders in British jails.
Hollobone said: “I come now to my list of shame, the list of the top 10 nations, according to the latest figures I have, on the basis of how many of their nationals are in our prisons. At No. 10 is Nigeria with 385, No. 9 is Somalia with 430, No. 8 is India with 458, equal sixth are Lithuania and Pakistan with 471, No. 5 is Albania with 472, No. 4 is Jamaica with 567, No. 3 is Romania with 629, No. 2 is Ireland with 783 and No. 1 is Poland with 951”.
Hollobone argued that the British government should do more to send those foreign offenders home to finish their sentences, because continued stay in the British jails was a strain on public finances: “Some 80% of the world’s nations are represented in our prisons. A third of those prisoners have been convicted of violent and sexual offences, a fifth of drug offences, and others of burglary, robbery, fraud and other serious crimes, yet we have the privilege of paying for them to stay in our country. The National Audit Office, in a report just a couple of years ago, looked at how much that is costing our nation. The average annual cost of incarcerating a prisoner is £33,000, so the very least this costs us is something like £330m a year. The National Audit Office estimated that if things such as police costs, Crown Prosecution Service costs, legal aid costs and prison costs were added in, the total bill would be between £769 million and £1bn a year, with its median estimate being £850m”.
The most infamous of the Nigerian jailbirds is James Ibori, the former governor of Delta State, who was sentenced in Southwark Crown Court in 2012 for 13 years on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud his state of about $250m. Ibori is expected to serve at least half the sentence and with “good behaviour” can expect to be released this year or early next year – as his period in detention from 2010 should count.
The UK government response to Hollobone was that they are “absolutely committed to increasing the number of foreign national offenders removed from our prisons. Any foreign national who comes to our country and abuses our hospitality by breaking the law should be in no doubt of our determination to deport them. Increasing removals is one of our top priorities”.
However, it appears that the process of removing foreign offenders is a long one, involving several government agencies. So the possibility of all the 385 Nigerians in British jails returning to Nigeria soon is a bit remote.