By Ese Awhotu
The prison decongestion exercise being undertaken by the Presidential Committee on Prisons Decongestion and Reform under the chairmanship of Justice Ishaq Bello, the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, has been commended for its ongoing efforts which indicate the determination of the Federal Government to free inmates who have spent years in prisons without trial under bad living conditions.
A civil society organisation known as Citizens Media and Development Network (CIMEDEN) made up of policy analysts, editors and civil society practitioners made the commendation during a press conference with journalists in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory FCT).
CIMEDEN’s engages in democracy, governance, public policy and citizens education advocacy programmes.
In a speech delivered by the Partnership Lead of CIMEDEN, Mr. Gabriel Ekainu, on behalf of the Director, the organisation stated that “we commend and support this exercise. Since the commencement of work by Justice Bello and his team in October last year, hundreds of inmates who were languishing in jail have been set free thereby decongesting the overcrowded prisons in the country.
“In Katsina State, 165 inmates were released. In Kaduna State alone, 458 inmates have been released. The Kaduna State government and the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federal and Minister of Justice paid the fines for the freed inmates. In Imo State, 13 were released; Rivers State (26), Jigawa State (80), etc. The offences of some of the inmates range from culpable homicide, armed robbery, suspected terrorist, rape, stealing, etc.
“We commend the tremendous relentless work of Justice Bello-led Committee, the unwavering commitment of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, as well as the goodwill supports from the state governors, especially Governors Ahmed Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, Nyesom Wike of Rivers, Rochas Okorocha of Imo, Aminu Masari of Katsina” and the governments of Jigawa and others.
“The cooperative roles of the authorities of the Nigerian Prison Service (NPS) and other relevant stakeholders are equally commendable”, Mr. Ekainu said.
The organisation, however, stressed that for the task of the Committee’s work to be fully successful, it challenged it to come up with “adequate and pragmatic recommendations capable of reforming the Nigeria prisons”.
According to Mr. Ekainu, “we expect that positive recommendations from the Committee on prison reform. We are however confident in Justice Ishaq Bello’s wealtah of experience, knowledge, forthrightness and patriotic disposition that his Committee’s efforts will meet the long-term yearnings of Nigerians for prison reform in Nigeria.
“We also task the Federal Government to expedite action whenever the Committee’s report is submitted. The will be a legacy to remember this government for a long time to come”, he said.