Kogi Chief Judge Moves to Decongest Prisons

The Acting Chief Judge of Kogi State, Justice Josiah Majebi has disclosed plans to embark on decongestion of prisons in the state.

The Chief Judge disclosed the decision to embark on the exercise when he played host to stakeholders in the administration of criminal justice at the Judiciary Headquarters in Lokoja, the state capital.

Justice Majebi stated that the law provides for a periodical visitation and decongestion of prisons by the Chief Judge, to give respite to inmates awaiting trial and those wrongfully detained.

He said despite the lean purse of the judiciary in the state, the exercise would be undertaken at the expense of other needs.

“We have critically looked at our situation but have decided to make sacrifices on behalf of our wrongfully detained citizens in the prisons. We have decided to decongest the prisons and this depends and logistics which means funding. We have said on different occasions that after the payment of salaries and Judges allowances, the court barely subsists.

“However, we have chosen to suspend every other administrative needs this time so as to discharge two fundamental duties of the High Court which are prisons decongestion and appeals sittings. So we said if what is left after payment of salaries and allowances can accommodate them we will try to conduct them” he said.

The stakeholders comprising the Ministry of Justice, the Nigeria Police, Nigerian Correctional Service, Legal Aid Council, DSS and the Nigerian Bar Association commended the Chief Judge for the decision while noting that the exercise was long overdue as it has taken more than two years when it was last embarked upon.

Acoordinf to them, conducting the exercise would bring succour to some awaiting trial inmates who are major beneficiaries that usually look forward to it.

Representatives of each of the organization hinted on their readiness to make the exercise fruitful as they also appreciated the timing of the exercise. The Ministry of Justice noted in particular that there has been tremendous improvement on the part of the Judiciary in assigning cases since the CJ came on board just as the CJ equally praised the Ministry for currently charging offenders to court promptly unlike before.

He said he was glad that the ministry was being proactive because the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Kogi State, 2017 stipulates time within which offenders must be charged to court and when not complied with it makes it particularly difficult for Magistrates who must act within the provisions of the law.

When also pleaded with by the stakeholders over the fate of the Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee which was inaugurated by the late Chief Judge of the State, Hon. Justice Nasiru Ajanah, but had remained dormant, the CJ announced that the committee would soon be made functional when funding is made available.

“Immediately I came in, I identified the committee as one of the mechanisms of administering criminal justice in the state. But when I asked if it was functioning, I was told it has not even met for once due to lack of fund. So we are working along with the Attorney-General of the state and other relevant organs and we have included it in our proposal to His Excellency. So as soon as funding is made available, the committee will commence its activities immediately” he added.

While observing that awaiting trial inmates who were relocated to Kuje Correctional Center were adversely affected during their trials the stakeholders were in agreement that those awaiting trial at the Family Court levels be also presented for review of their cases. It will be the first time the cases of such category of offenders will be reviewed as they urged the correctional centres to endeavor to make all awaiting trial inmates readily available for the exercise.

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