12 April 2012

Nigeria: Lagos Opens Registry for Inmates

Lagos — Due to the congestion of Lagos prisons, the state government says a crime data registry, where particulars of inmates who have been awaiting trial for years would be kept for proper monitoring has been opened.

The state government, which expressed concerns over the high number of awaiting trial inmates at Kirikiri, Ikoyi and Badagry prisons, said the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) will from now on, pay regular visits to those prisons, and file necessary papers to ensure speedy trial.

he state's Attorney General, Barrister Rahman Ade-Ipaiye, who said this yesterday during a ministerial press briefing, said the prisons became congested mostly because when the police arrest an accused person, people do not come forward to bail them, and they are taken to prison.

"We are not to be blamed for the prisons congestion. We are also concerned, but sometimes, some of these awaiting trial inmates do not come out when names are called in the morning by prison officials to take them to court. It may sound odd, but that is what we were told by the prisons officials.

They hide themselves because they are afraid that evidence may be given against them in court and they could be jailed. After some years, they will now come forward to tell us that they have been behind the prison walls for years without trial," he said.

Ipaiye, who said it would be extremely difficult to curb crime in the country if a forensic laboratory is not established, said the state government is building a forensic laboratory to ensure that quality evidence is gotten to prosecute cases.

"We cannot curb crime until we have a forensic laboratory. Until then, if we can enforce our law as they are, we'll have a better society," he said.

He said in the mean time, the state has introduced non-custodian sentences, community service, probation and restitution, to ease prison congestion and minimize the effect of imprisonment on individuals and their families, especially in the case of minor offences.

"The ministry has secured the service of community service officers who will supervise offenders sentenced to community service.

We have put in place 10 work placements across the state where people sentenced to community service will discharge their service free," he said.

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