Inmates regain freedom as FG is lauded over new move on Prison decongestion.
… Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State calls for urgent action on infrastructural rot at correctional service centers
By Endiong John
On monday, Federal government’s committee on decongestion of correctional service facilities in Nigeria arrived Uyo on a major move to decongest correctional facilities in Akwa Ibom State. The move which is an initiative of the office of the Attorney General of the federation has earned the commendation of the Akwa Ibom State government.
The Chairman of the Committee on correctional service, Justice Ishaq Bello led other members of the Committee on a courtesy visit to the governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel in the early hours of Monday before proceeding to chair over hearings and reviews of the cases of persons recommended for pardon at the correctional service center in Uyo, the state capital.
Justice Bello who refused inmates convicted of capital offenses such as murder, arm robbery, kidnappings and rape freed several inmates on Monday while the Akwa Ibom state government undertook to pay the fines of all the freed inmates. During the hearing, Justice Bello interrogated with the inmates recommended for pardon, advising them to refrain from crime. He charged them to indulge in productive and legal endeavours to make a living as idleness attracts crime.
Many freed inmates shed tears of joy, considering themselves lucky while thanking the federal government for coming to their rescue as well as the Akwa Ibom State government for undertaking to pay fines ordered by court for their crime.
Inmates freed were mostly recommended for pardon on grounds of health and age. The Chairman of the Committee made sure that inmates freed must have serve at least a year in the Nigeria Correctional Service center. Nobody with a record of being previously convicted was set free.
On the decongestion initiative, the Attorney general of Akwa Ibom state, Barr. Uwemedimo Nwoko lauded the Attorney general of the federation but called on the federal government of Nigeria to give urgent attention to the state of disrepair and rot that has set in across correctional centers in the country. He urged the federal government to match the state of infrastructures at correctional service centers with it’s new nomenclature.
“Let me promptly commend the Attorney general of the federation. I’m sure this is his initiative. This committee is from the federal Ministry of Justice and the federal government did put it up. They are working towards a perennial problem of what we used to call ‘prison congestion ‘ which is now called correctional center. ”
“The congestion of the correctional center is an issue that has not really had a concrete solution”
“You can even look around at the infrastructure here. If this is what we call a correctional center, then it’s very sad because it is nothing to write home about, but I believe that when the federal government is done with this step, they will pay attention to the next step which is to pay attention at the infrastructures of correctional centers in order to make it an actual correctional center”, Nwoko said.
Regarding whether the freed inmates will have to wait until the state government pays their fine before they are released, the learned Attorney general of Akwa Ibom state revealed that he has brokered an understanding with the chairman of the Committee on correctional service centers to let the inmates go while his office will work with other relevant agencies of government to make sure the fines are paid.
More than 60 percent of prison admissions are waiting trial or being remanded in custody. Factors identified as causing overcrowding include delays in the administration of justice, overuse of prison sentences by judges, over-criminalization, and lack of adequate resources to build new prisons, research shows. Some side effects that inmates have experienced as a result of overcrowding include damage to physical and mental health and human rights violations. The new initiative by the office of the Attorney general of the federation to grant unconditional release to inmates convicted of lesser offenses, prisons are expected to get decongested by a high degree.
Those on the team to Uyo includes Representative of Director of Public Persecution, Mrs Nnamani Vivian Kuku, Secretary of the Committee on Correctional Service, Mrs Leticia Ayoola-Daniels; Chairman of the Committee on Correctional Service, Justice Ishaq Bello, Secretary of the Committee on Correctional Service, Mrs Leticia Ayoola-Daniels and Controller amongst others.