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Judiciary

Decongest prisons through plea bargain — RoLAC urges

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Decongestion

The Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Programme (RoLAC) has called on the judiciary and other relevant institutions to decongest prisons by applying plea bargain concept more in criminal justice administration.

The Programme Officer of RoLAC, Mr Peter Omenka, made call during the closing  of a four-day training programme for about 120 magistrates  in Lagos State.

The programme was organised by RoLAC funded by the European Union and managed by the British Council.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the training was on application of plea bargain to the administration of criminal justice.

According to Omenka, more than  70 per cent of cases are handled by the lower courts, particularly magistrates’ courts.

“That is what informed the training for the magistrates,” he said.

Omenka said that the training was part of RoLAC’s efforts to reduce prison congestion.

He hoped that magistrates’ application of knowledge gained from the training would facilitate justice administration.

“We are going to evaluate the effects of this training in three months with a view to seeing how positive it affects the courts in Lagos so that we can take same training to other states.

“If we find out that there is no positive impact on the court operations in Lagos, we will improve on the training until the purpose is realised.

“We don’t want to take what is not working to other states,” he said.

Dr Akeem Bello of the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, who was a facilitators for the training, said it would  build the capacities of magistrates in Lagos State on the application of plea bargain in the administration of criminal justice.

Bello noted that before now, plea bargain was limited to high courts.

He also.noted that recently, the attorney-general of Lagos State approved a manual for magistrates to enter plea bargain in their courts.

He said that the  training was to enable magistrates to respond to cases where defendants would opt for  plea bargain.

The don erased  the fear that serious crime offenders might get lighter sentences through plea bargain,

According to him, with the guidelines on punishment on each crime, offenders will be punished appropriately.

“Plea bargain will definitely decongest the prisons if applied,” he said.

Bello said interactions between magistrates and facilitators at the training showed that they gained much,

He commended RoLAC and the Lagos  State  Ministry of Justice for the programme.

NNN reports that the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Opeyemi Oke, while declaring open the training on Monday, said plea bargain had been entrenched in the state’s criminal justice system.

Oke said plea bargain would curtail undue delay in the dispensation of criminal justice, calling for its adoption as a procedure in criminal proceedings.

NNN reports that plea bargain is a negotiated agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant, whereby the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser offence or to one of multiple charges in exchange for some concession by the prosecutor, usually, a more lenient sentence, or a dismissal of the other charges.

Defence/Security

Correctional service decongests centres, releases 3,751 inmates

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The Controller General, Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), Mr Ja’afaru Ahmed, has released 3,751 inmates comprising convicted and awaiting trial persons who met the criteria set by the Federal Government.

The Service Public Relations Officer (SPEO) Mr Chuks Njoku disclosed this in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday in Abuja.

NAN reports that President Muhammad Buhari had ordered the decongestion of detention centres in the country to sustain the fight against spread of COVID-19.

NAN also reports that 2,600 inmates were granted Presidential amnesty in the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on April 9.

“However some states Chief Judges during the jail delivery processes granted bail and release to some awaiting trial persons culminating in the release of 3,751 inmates so far,” he said.

According to Ahmed, the process is ongoing as other measures were in place to ensure continuity and the final figures will be made public at the end of the exercise.

He said that the breakdown of the figure showed that 2,740 convicts and 1,011 Awaiting Trial Inmates (ATI) had so far benefited from the exercise.

Ahmed lauded the state governors, Chief Judges and other stakeholders in the Criminal Justice System who worked tirelessly to carry out this exercise and encourage its continuity.

“The Service is assuring that all inmates qualified for the amnesty and jail delivery will be released accordingly,’’ he added.

Edited By: Ifeyinwa Okonkwo/Ismail Abdulaziz (NAN)

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Judiciary

Decongestion  of correctional centres: Ekiti to adopt plea bargain

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The Ekiti State Ministry of Justice says it will adopt plea bargain as part of ongoing effort to decongest the Ado Ekiti Correctional Centre.

Mr Olawale Fapounda, the State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, stated this in a statement issued on Thursday in Ado Ekiti and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria .

He said that the initiative was in accordance with the provisions of Sections 75 and 76 of Ekiti State Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2014.

The commissioner said that the process was in pursuant to the power conferred on him by Section 211 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as (amended) and Section 70 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Ekiti State, 2014.

“I hereby invite interested legal practitioners representing defendants in criminal matters before the High Courts and Magistrates’ Court in Ekiti State to submit requests for plea bargain.

“The objective of this process is to enable the state and defendants awaiting trial agree on a frame work for speedy conclusion of trials.

“Information on the format and content of the Ministry of Justice plea bargain request can be obtained from the  Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Ministry of Justice – Phase 3 and the State Secretariat, Ado Ekiti.

“Deadline for submission of applications is Friday, May 31, 2020,’’ Fapounda said.

Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu/Obike Ukoh (NAN)

 

 

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Judiciary

NCS,Court decongestion: NBA Chairman urges states to borrow leaf from Lagos Gov’t.

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Mr Bayo Akinlade, Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Ikorodu branch, has called on other states to borrow a leaf from Lagos government by adopting the Police Duty Solicitors Scheme (PDSS) and Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) approach  in decongesting the courts.

The PDSS sought to reduce the excessive use of pretrial detention by providing free legal advice to suspects at police stations, while the office of the DPP issues legal advice on case files sent to the courts by the police, including prosecuting accused persons.

Akinlade, who made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Monday in Lagos, said these two innovations were impacting positively on the administration of criminal justice in Lagos State in recent times.

“Not only do they decongest the courts, these initiatives go further to decongest the Nigeria Correctional Centres.

“While PDSS operates as a filtering intervention at the police station level, the office of the DPP has its officers in selected magisterial districts filtering the charges brought by the police to court.

“This filter allows the Attorney General (AG) to have full control over his prosecutorial powers, as well as curb the dangerous trend of trumped-up charges that have clogged our justice system and congested our correctional facilities.

“Whatever PDSS misses at the police station level is taken care of by the DPP filtering system.

“This has brought perfect working synergy between lawyers in private practice and lawyers in government for a better society.

“We encourage other states to adopt PDSS and the DPP filtering systems,” Akinlade advised.

According to him, the Attorney-General of (A-G) of Lagos State had early this year, put a team together to resolve the issue of whether or not police officers who are not lawyers be allowed to prosecute cases in the magistrates’ courts.

He said the team finished its assignment and offered its recommendations, which the A-G received and wasted no time in implementing the most important aspects of the recommendation.

He said the two innovations were the adoption of a DPP filtering system and the official recognition of the PDSS

Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu (NAN)

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Judiciary

Lawyers laud FG over decongestion of correctional centres

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Some Lawyers on Saturday commended  the Federal Government for the directive given to states to decongest  correctional centres as an additional way of preventing the spread of  Coronavirus in the country.

The lawyers gave  the commendation in separate interviews with News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.

Human Rights Lawyer Joke Aladesanmi said it was good that government considered the state of health and wellbeing of inmates by making recommendations to states to decongest correctional centres.

She said that the gesture was to create room for social distancing at the centres.

She, however, said steps should be taken to ensure that the released inmates were adequately catered for throughout the period of the pandemic.

“I applaud the federal government’s decision to decongest correctional centres as a way of preventing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic among inmates and officials.

“It is, however, pertinent to state that most of the inmates who will benefit from this development may have lost touch with their loved ones.

“They may have difficulties travelling to their respective states of residence as the boundaries for most states are presently closed.

“It is also undeniable that persons who fall within this category may have to find other means of survival which may include resorting to crime.

“It is therefore my recommendation that the government should make adequate provisions for the inmates to ensure their sustenance throughout the period of the lockdown and beyond.

“It is necessary that the released inmates are adequately rehabilitated and reintegrated into  society to avoid their resorting to crime.

“I also call on the government to sustain the decongestion measures beyond this pandemic period as inmates are very vulnerable to various ailments due to overcrowding of the prisons,” Aladesanmi advised.

Another lawyer, Mr Tope Alabi, said the declaration by the government to decongest correctional centres to curtail spread of the Coronavirus was a step in the right direction.

He said it was usually an annual event carried out by Chief Judges of all the states and governors in the country.

Alabi suggested that the ongoing decongestion should be sustained beyond the pandemic period.

According to him, for the released inmates to shun criminal activities, the roots of the offences upon which they were convicted should be looked into and solved.

“Let government also engage them in farming and other vocational training.

“They can also be engaged in little businesses of buying and selling,” Alabi said.

According to Mr Chibuikem Opara, another Lagos-based lawyer, for prison decongestion to be sustained, there must be a paradigm shift from retributive justice delivery to restorative approach.

“This means that the courts should invoke more of community service as punishment in minor offences instead of prison term sentencing.

“Also, awaiting trial inmates should not be detained beyond necessary stipulated period.

“To ensure that the released inmates do not to go back to the life of crime, both the government and the community must cooperate.

“Their communities must accept them as reformed members of the society without any form of discrimination,” Opara said. (NAN)

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Donald Ugwu (NAN)

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Judiciary

COVID-19: President Buhari calls for speedy trials, decongestion of Custodial Centres

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President Muhammadu Buhari has called for urgent measures towards the speedy trial of cases and decongestion of custodial centres in the country in view of Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Femi Adesina, the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday, said the president made the call information a letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad.

Adesina said the President drew His Lordship’s attention to the recent call by the United Nations on all countries “to consciously reduce the population of prison inmates since physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible.”

According to President Buhari, from available records, the inmates population at various custodial centres across the country presently stands at about 74,127 out of which 52,226 are Awaiting Trial Persons (ATPs).

“Most of these custodial centres are presently housing inmates beyond their capacities and the overcrowded facilities pose a potent threat to the health of the inmates and the public in general in view of the present circumstances, hence the need for urgent steps to bring the situation under control,” he added.

In view of the above scenario, the President said: “It has become imperative for Your Lordship to request State Chief Judges to embark on immediate visit to all custodial/correctional centres within their respective States to identify and release deserving inmates where that has not been done already.”

He noted that during such visits, “the Chief Judges are enjoined to consider conditional or unconditional release of ATPs who have spent 6 years or more in custody. ATPs who have no confirmed criminal cases against them, aged inmates and terminally ill may be discharged.

“It is expected that particular attention should be on the aged, those with health issues, low risk offenders, those with no sufficient legal basis to remain in custody, inmates convicted for minor offences with or without option of fines and inmates who have less than three years term left to serve having served a substantial term of their service for offences that attract 5 years and above.

“Payment of fines may be made in favour of inmates convicted of lesser offences with option of fine, who are in custody because of their inability to pay such fines.”

According to the Nigerian leader, a Report on the proposed visits is expected to be forwarded to the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion Secretariat, Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja for compilation and onward transmission to his office.

He also suggested to the Chief Justice of Nigeria to “at this stage, consider taking immediate steps as appropriate to ensure the setting up or designation of Special Courts in all States, including the FCT, to try cases of armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping and other serious offences, in order to facilitate speedy trials.”

President Buhari also stressed the need to ensure that the Chief Judges of States and FCT High Courts direct lower courts to comply with requirements of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act/Law in issuing remand warrants in criminal cases especially in cases which are not within their jurisdiction.

According to him, this will regulate the volume of entry of Awaiting Trial Inmates into custodial centres.

Edited By: Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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Defence/Security

Decongestion: Gov. Uzodinma inaugurates Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy 

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Imo governor, Sen. Hope Uzodimma on Saturday inaugurated a nine-man State Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy with a task to decongest the correctional services in the state.

 

Speaking at the inauguration, the governor described as “outrageous” the number of over 3,000 inmates in the custodial centers in the state upon his assumption of office.

 

He said the decision to set up the council followed recommendations from the Correctional Service to release some inmates, especially those who were not facing criminal matter and who had spent years on awaiting trial for minimal crimes.

The governor however, stated that in accordance with the constitution, he could only pardon inmates with the recommendation of the State Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy.

He tasked the committee members on honesty, objective reasoning and commitment to duty in carrying out the assignment.

The governor also noted that it had become exigent to reduce the number of inmates serving sentences, especially with the global emergency of COVID-19 pandemic.

Responding on behalf of members of the Advisory Council, Chairman of the council and Attorney-General of the State, Mr Cyprian Akaolisa, saidhat the committee comprised of men of proven and tested integrity.

He promised that they would not betray the trust reposed on them by the state government while promising that they would do the job with sincerity of purpose.

Other members of the committee are the Controller of Owerri Custodial Center in Imo, Mr Seye Oguntan, and the Permanent Secretary,  Imo  Ministry of Health, Dr Anthony Igwe.

Others are Dr. Gideon Nweze, Prince Lemmy Akakem, Rev. Ernest Dike, Mr Gabriel Obizo, Chief Bernard Anyanwu and Solicitor-General of Imo, Mrs Chinyere Ibe as the Secretary.

Edited By: Maureen Atuonwu (NAN)

 

 

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Judiciary

Gov Fayemi plans to decongest Correctional centre to curb COVID-19 spread

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Gov. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti says he has directed the Ministry of Justice to urgently prepare modalities for further decongestion of the Federal Correctional Centre, Ado-Ekiti.

Fayemi, gave the directive in a statement issued by Mr Tunde Olaolorun, Special Assistant to the Attorney-General on Public Education, Media and Communication, on Wednesday.

The governor said the order was in line with the State and Federal Governments directives to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus in the state.

He said that the directive was based on the reasoning that inmates were likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreak than the general population.

According to him, this is because of the confined conditions in which they live together for long period of time.

”Against this background, it has become necessary that the state government take full account of all the rights of inmates in the Correctional Centre and their families.

”Also, all staff and other persons providing support to the facility, including lawyers and service providers, when taking measures to combat the pandemic in the state,” he said.

The governor said that the Ministry of Justice would convene an emergency meeting of the Advisory Council of Prerogative of Mercy to deliberate on the below material.

“The council will approve an assessment study of the population of the correctional facility to identify individuals most at risk, taking account of all particular vulnerable groups.

“Approve a draft proposal for the reduction of population in the facility, wherever possible,  including implementing a scheme of early release.

“Consider a proposal for the review of all cases of pre-trial detention to determine whether it is strictly necessary in the prevailing public health emergency in Ekiti light.

“Approve practical measures to ensure that persons released from the facility are subject to monitoring, including requirements of physical address, obtaining credible references and other appropriate non-intrusive monitoring measures,” Fayemi said.

He added that the council would be invited to review the cases of all persons in the Ado-Ekiti Correctional Centre and consider the desirability of the early release of the following four groups of detainees.

The governor noted that this was without prejudice to the rules of procedure adopted by the Council at its second statutory sitting held on Oct.7, 2019.

He listed the four groups as; Persons in pre-trial detention, particularly those for minor or low-risk offences; women with children; persons at risk population such as elderly inmates or those with underlying life threatening health issues.

The governor said that the fourth  group were persons sentenced for minor, low risk offences- particularly those who have 18 months or less remaining of their sentence to serve.

Edited By: Chinyere Bassey/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

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General news

Expert calls for decongestion of IDPs camps to curb spread of COVID-19

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A legal Practitioner, Dr Abiola Adimula, has urged the Federal Governnment to decongest the various Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps across the country to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

 

Adimula, also a senior lecturer at the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ilorin, made the call while speaking with newsmen on Tuesday in Ilorin

 

According to her, IDPs in Nigeria are in jeopardy owing to the fact that overcrowding in camps could fuel the COVID-19 infection.

 

She noted that there was the need for the government to build a road map of reintegration of the IDPs by preventing protracted displacement.

 

She said COVID-19 pandemic posed serious threat because of the impoverished living conditions in IDPs camps.

 

”There is high-level of risk among IDPs in case of any outbreak since mechanism of the disease’s transmission is clear – primarily through close contact with carriers of the causal virus.

 

”Transmission can also be through tactile contact with virus-riddled surfaces, prevention has been the primary mode of containment.

 

”This is done through enforcement of physical distancing and self-isolation within affected and at-risk populations, to minimize contact between the infected and uninfected,” she said.

 

Adimula said that the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) reported that over two million Nigerians have been displaced from Boko Haram insurgency since 2009.

 

”Herders/Farmers conflict has displaced many, especially in North Central states, while flooding has also displaced thousands of people across the country.

 

”IDPs camps are overcrowded amidst severe infrastructure deficits. They are impoverished and dependent on humanitarian aid for their sustenance.

 

”IDPs have limited access to healthcare or Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) amenities,” she said.

 

Adimula noted that the background showed how much risk IDPs might pose to the larger population and vehicles for COVID-19 proliferation.

 

”For now, since social distancing is a means of curtailing the infection,  IDPs camps can be decongested by allocating some to school buildings which are presently not in use,” she said.

 

Adimula also said that the suggestion was an immediate intervention that could sort the problem of overcrowding in IDPs camps to avoid COVID-19 infection.

 

She urged the government to provide clean water, soap and sanitiser in large quantity to ensure that IDPs kept good hygiene in this critical period.

 

”Supply of palliative materials should be regular and consistent to ensure good upkeep that will prevent brewing of other conflicts in the camps.

 

”Most of the IDPs are not engaged in any job, some who are engaged are into daily paid jobs.

 

”Hunger, idleness, restriction of movement and the present lockdown can instigate violence and fuel insecurity and health challenges to the population,” she said.

 

Adimula said that palliative interventions and support from global bodies, captains of industries and the government should go extensively into supporting the IDPs to keep them away from COVID-19 infection and in turn, keep Nigeria safe.

Edited By: Chinyere Elele-Bassey/Felix Ajide (NAN)

 

 

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Judiciary

Covid 19: Malami urges Governors to ensure speedy decongestion of Custodial Centres

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The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has written to Governors of the 36 states to draw their 

attention on the need for speedy decongestion of Custodial Centres.

Malami in a statement issued in Abuja by 

Dr Umar Gwandu, his Special 

Assistant on Media in said

 President Muhamamdu Buhari had 

approved urgent measures to be taken towards the speedy decongestion of correctional centres across the country in view of the COVID–19 Pandemic.

The Minister said that

from available records, the inmate population at the various custodial

centres across the country presently stands at 74,127 out of which 52,226 inmates are awaiting trial persons (ATPs)

He added that most of

these centres are presently housing inmates beyond their capacities.

“The development poses a potent threat to the health of the

inmates and the public in general in view of the present circumstances, hence the need for urgent steps to bring the situation under control.

“In the light of the above, Mr President requests all Executive Governors to request their State Chief Judges to embark on visits to all correctional centres within their respective States to identify and release deserving inmates where that has not been done already”.

Malami 

enjoined

 the Chief Judges to consider conditional or unconditional release of ATPs who have spent six years or more in custody and those who have no confirmed criminal cases against them.

“Other inmates to be considered include the aged, those with terminal illnesses, low risk offenders, those with no sufficient legal basis to remain in custody and convicts of minor offences with or without option of fines.

” Also included are those who have less than 3 years term left to serve having served a substantial term of their jail term for offences that attract five years and above”.

Malami also said that payment of fines may be made in favour of inmates convicted of lesser offences with option of fine, who are in

custody because of their inability to pay such fines.

He notified them to take measures to

facilitate the setting up of their respective State Prerogative of Mercy Committees in order to recommend deserving cases for release on grounds of pardon or clemency in line with Constitutional provisions.

Edited By: Sadiya Hamza
(NAN)

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Contact US: editor @nnn.com.ng, nnnnews247 @gmail.com

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