FG Releases 126 Indigent Convicts From Kuje Prisons
The Stakeholders Committee on Prisons Reform and Decongestion has granted freedom to 126 inmates who have been serving various terms of convictions at the Kuje Medium Security Prison for offences with option of fines but were unable to settle to regain their freedom.
Chairman of the committee who is also the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Honourable Justice Usman Ishaq Bello superintended over the release last Thursday which is the first in the series of releases the Committee will carry out in the next couple of months.
Comrade Salihu Othman Isah, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN disclosed that the Justice Bello committee kick-started the decongestion process to fast track the decongestion of Nigeria prisons.
The committee commenced its planned process of action which involves reviewing of inmates awaiting trial of upwards to five years across the nation’s prisons.
Isah who is a member of the committee quoted Justice Ishaq Bello to have revealed that the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) paid the fines for 114 while the Federal Ministry of Justice settled 10, and non-governmental organizations such as the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) and the Network for National Taxation paid for one convict each.
The convicts were drawn from Suleja, Kuje and Keffi prisons.
Inmates in the awaiting trial category that were granted bail but yet to perfect their conditions were advised, to reach out to their relations to engage services of defense counsel, while those that declared that they do not have anybody were handed over to the Department of Public Prosecution of the Federation in the absence of representation from Legal Aid Council.
The Committee chairman equally reviewed some bail conditions that was not appropriate to the offences committed to lighter one.
He revealed the planned efforts of the Judiciary to visit prisons across the country for the purposes of decongestion at least thrice in a year rather than waiting for end of the year.
Justice Bello warned the released convicts to avoid coming back to the prison as there are measures in place to identify them easily.
“The Ministry of Justice has a data base containing your fingerprints, pictures and other records domiciled in the prisons. All of you should know this. It will make it easy for you to be identified if you come back again. We will know you are not a visitor, but have come back home”, he cautioned.
On his part, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN in his goodwill message, noted as heartwarming the approval already secured by the Committee for the establishment of state-of-the-art Case Management System in the prisons across the nation to strengthen the operations of the federal justice sector and probably, eliminate bottlenecks in the administration of justice in Nigeria.
He affirmed that the pilot phase of the project would commence in the first quarter of 2018, stressing the resolve of the Ministry to ensure all hands are on deck to nip in the bud, the intractable problem of congestion in Nigerian prisons.
“it is noteworthy to note that the Federal Ministry of Justice will host a stakeholders summit scheduled for the 2nd quarter of 2018 involving the Chief Judges, states Attorney General, Nigerian Bar Association, Legal Aid Council, National Human Rights Commission, civil societies and other relevant bodies to fashion out a permanent solution to the intractable problem of congestion in our prisons.”
In his goodwill address, the Honourable Minister of Interior, Lieutenant General Abdulrahaman Dambazau (rtd) represented by the Comptroller General, Nigeria Prison Service, Mr. Ja’afaru Ahmed hinted on the appreciable health conditions of inmates following the presidential approval for the service to purchase large quantities of various drugs which he described as one of its kind in many years past.
He urged the prisoners that would regain their freedom to be of good conduct and justify the kind gesture of the Federal Government by living an exemplary life.
Speaking, the FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello, represented by the Permanent Secretary in the FCTA, Mr. Chinyeaka Oha disclosed that the Minister had allocated a large expanse of land to the Nigerian Prison Service for the building of new prison yard and vocational institute for the rehabilitation of under-aged inmates.
He also mentioned the provision of land to the judiciary for the building of extended family court with correctional units and juvenile prison to keep away under-aged from crooks and hardened criminals.