attorney-General of the
Federation, AGF, and Minister of
Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN,
yesterday, said since awaiting trial
inmates constitute 70 percent of the
nation’s prison population, there is
an urgent need to address the issue
of rights violation in the name of
awaiting trial.
A statement by the Deputy
Director (Information) in the
Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Ogundoro
Modupe, said the AGF gave the
warning on Monday when he led the
Federal Government Stakeholders’
Committee on Prison Decongestion
to Rivers and Imo States respectively.
She said the minister decried
the unchecked violation of the
fundamental rights of prison inmates
across the country, explaining that the
purpose of the visit was to oversee
the implementation of the Federal
Executive Council’s directive to fasttrack
the decongestion of prisons.
The statement also said the
committee would review cases
of inmates convicted for minor
offences with an option of fine and
are unable to pay and added that
“the committee wishes to secure the
release of, as many of such inmates
as possible through the payment of
their fines”.
Malami said the committee will, in
addition to ensuring the payment of
fines, also conduct a review of cases
of inmates awaiting trial for more
than five years in select priority
prisons.
“These able-bodied men represent
our potential workforce, they
represent tomorrow’s fathers to raise
the next generation of Nigerians.
“We must, therefore, begin to find
improved ways of addressing the
issue of crime and the treatment
of minor offenders in our criminal
justice system”, the minister said.
Chairman of the Committee
and the Chief Judge of the Federal
Capital Territory High Court, Justice
Ishaq Bello, during the tour of the
Imo State Prison, facilitated the
release of 13 inmates, most of whom
their options of fine were settled by
Governor Rochas Okorocha.
Earlier, the committee was in
Rivers State where 26 inmates also
regained their freedom.
While Governor Nyesom Wike
procured the release of inmates who
were remanded for their inability to
settle their fine options, Justice Bello
released those whose offences were
minor, but were either remanded
for years without trial or sentenced
beyond the provisions of the law.
Among those freed was a young
woman, Joy Goodluck, an indigene
of Imo State, sentenced to three
years jail term in Port Harcourt
prison for stealing half bag of
cassava.
The lady, who was a month
pregnant at the time of the offence,
was set free with her baby after she
narrated the circumstance that took
her to prison.
Speaking on the dehumanizing
condition of inmates, Justice Bello
said the problem with Nigerian
prisons is not only about the
crowded space that inmates are
subjected to, but the attendant
psychological and emotional
impact.
Justice Bello also urged the chief
judge of both states to carry out a
review of inmates.
In his remarks, Governor Wike
flayed the police for the delay in
charging arrested persons to court,
alleging that the Force was partly
responsible for the swelling figure
of inmates.
Speaking during a meeting with
the committee in Owerri, Governor
Okorocha admitted that the prison
atmosphere in Nigeria cannot
guarantee the transformation of
inmates upon their release and
identified the justice system as part
of the factors responsible for prison
congestion.
He, therefore, suggested prison
concession or a private, public
partnership, which he said, would
enable private sector participation
in the construction of prisons and
welfare of inmates.

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